Earlier this week, Tarrant County prosecutors were busy lamenting that they are unable to appeal the sentence handed down to 16-year-old Ethan Couch, who got 10 years' probation and a stint in rehab for drunkenly running over four people in June.
Under state law, only the defendant in juvenile cases can appeal a sentence, meaning prosecutors, however much they wanted to put Couch behind bars for the maximum 20 years, were out of luck.
So it seemed on Monday. By Tuesday, District Attorney Joe Shannon had concocted a new strategy for getting Couch locked up. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he is asking District Judge Jean Boyd to toughen her sentence based on two counts of intoxication assault that are still pending before the court.
"During his recent trial, the 16-year-old admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter and two cases of intoxication assault," Shannon told the paper in an email. "There has been no verdict formally entered in the two intoxication assault cases. Every case deserves a verdict."
The intoxication assault charges stem from injuries suffered by two of the teenagers who were riding in the bed of Couch's pickup when, drunk on beer stolen from Walmart and going 40 miles over the speed limit, he veered off Burleson-Retta Road and plowed into a group of Good Samaritans changing a flat tire.
One of the teens, Sergio Molina, suffered a serious brain injury that's left him paralyzed and able to communicate only by blinking. The other, Solimon Mohmand, suffered numerous broken bones and internal injuries.
Shannon's request is a long shot. It seems unlikely that Boyd, having decided that Couch shouldn't go to prison for killing four people, would change her mind over the injury of two. There are other hurdles as well, like probable claims of double jeopardy if Boyd changes her mind, and the principle that courts should be immune to public opinion.
But it never hurts to ask. Besides, it's a way for Shannon to prove to irate voters that he's trying to do something.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.
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