Courtroom Drama

Fort Worth judge bans media from affluenza teen Ethan Couch's probation hearing

Fort Worth judge bans media from affluenza teen's probation hearing

UPDATE: The judge assigned Ethan Couch to a private rehab facility. No jail time was added to his 10-year probation sentence.

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State District Judge Jean Boyd kicked the media out of her courtroom ahead of a February 5 hearing to announce probation terms for Ethan Couch. The North Texas teen controversially avoided jail time for a drunk driving accident that killed four people and left two others severely injured. Outrage at Boyd's leniency has been widespread.

Fearing Boyd would close the courtroom, five North Texas media outlets and two newspapers filed a joint motion January 29 requesting "reasonable notice" of any courtroom closure. According to Texas Family Code, courtrooms are supposed to open to the public when juvenile defendants are older than 14, unless the court proves "good cause" to exclude the public.

Media, extended family members and even some attorneys were barred from entering the courtroom around 3:30 pm. A deputy was placed on guard in front of the courtroom door. 

Before his December 2013 sentencing, the teen faced up to 20 years in jail for intoxication manslaughter but landed on the lightest side of the punishment scale: 10 years probation. Boyd's choice of sentence raised eyebrows the world over, especially after clinical psychologist G. Dick Miller testified that Couch suffered from "affluenza," a condition that apparently causes wealthy kids to believe their actions have no consequences. Miller advocated for probation and an intensive, long-term treatment facility. 

A week after Boyd's ruling, Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon released a statement that his office would still pursue jail time for Couch.

On Twitter, reporters railed against the locked courtroom. 

Ethan Couch
Ethan Couch, 16, was sentenced to 10 years' probation for his role in a drunk-driving accident that killed four people. Photo courtesy of MamasLatinas