There are some obvious parallels between Ethan Couch and Josh Brent. Both got drunk and caused fatal car wrecks. Both had the means to hire talented private attorneys. Both were given offensively light sentences that sparked outrage.
To most observers, that's where the similarities end. Couch is white, Brent black. Couch is still legally a kid; Brent's a grown man. The mother of Brent's victim has forgiven him. The families of Couch's victims (there were four) have not.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, though, thinks the fates of the privileged Tarrant County teen and the former Dallas Cowboy are more closely connected than they might appear. In an interview with K104, reported by WFAA's Carla Wade, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins blamed Couch's "affluenza" case for Brent's light sentence.
"The reason I firmly believe that the affluenza case influenced people, we're in the MLK parade and people are yelling, 'Hey free Josh Brent!' And 'Man, give him probation," he told the radio station. "That other guy killed four people.'"
The jury was receptive to such arguments, Watkins says, because of its racial makeup: five black, three Hispanic, four white.
"Race still plays a factor," Watkins said. "Now that we have individuals that are of color and have the opportunity to serve on juries and decide a person's guilt or innocence, now we are seeing the opposite effect. And so the past, basically, is dictating the future."
He promises to "continue to fight and make sure that the system is fair for everyone and until that happens, then we will have verdicts like O.J. Simpson and like Josh Brent."
Yep. Watkins is playing the O.J. card, which ranks only slightly above Hitler allusions in the universe of legitimate legal arguments.
The main problem with that line of argument, as former Dallas County prosecutor Toby Shook/Watkins nemesis points out to Wade, is that Brent was convicted. Also: O.J. Simpson? Really?
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.