Ethan Couch Carries Freedom Fight to Texas Supreme Court

Ethan Couch is brought into Judge Wayne Salvant's court for Couch's adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth.
Ethan Couch is brought into Judge Wayne Salvant's court for Couch's adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth.
EPA/MAX FAULKNER/POOL via Newscom

Ethan Couch, the Tarrant County teen who killed four people while driving drunk in 2013, petitioned the Texas Supreme Court for early release from Tarrant County Jail late last week.

Couch, jailed last year for violating probation, says that the judge who sentenced him to nearly two years in prison after Couch's case was moved from juvenile court to adult didn't have the right to do so.

Couch gained notoriety during his initial trial when a psychiatrist testifying in his defense said that Couch suffered from "affluenza." According to the psychiatrist, Couch was not fully aware the consequences of his behavior because his wealthy parents failed to set any boundaries for him, indulging their son with an expensive truck, alcohol and anything else he wanted. The judge at Couch's trial, Jean Boyd, sentenced the then 16-year-old to 10 years probation.

In 2015, Couch again found himself in the public eye after video surfaced of Couch and a group of friends playing beer pong, breaking Couch's probation. Fearing being sent to jail, Couch fled with his mother Tonya Couch to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where the duo was eventually caught after Couch made a Domino's order from a cell phone that was being surveilled by Mexican authorities.

After his return to the United States in January 2016, Couch's case was transferred from the juvenile probation system to Judge Wayne Salvant's district court. As a condition of Couch's transfer to the adult system, Salvant sentenced Couch to 180 days in county jail for each of four people he killed, with each sentence to be served consecutively. For the last year, Couch has been in protective custody at the Tarrant County Jail.

In September, Couch's attorneys petitioned to have Salvant removed from the case and were denied. Last month Texas' 2nd Court of Appeals denied their appeal of that lower court decision, leading Couch's lawyers to make their Supreme Court filing.

Salvant, the filing argues, should never have received Couch's case in the first place. Because juvenile probation and its conditions are technically a civil matter, Couch's probation violations should have been subject to civil penalties, the lawyers say, so they're seeking their client's release from jail.

Tonya Couch remains out on bail pending trial for her role in helping her son's escape.


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