Another child left behind

Newport Academy rehabilitation center and Ethan Couch’s alternative to prison, where Judge Boyd delegated him to carry out his probation sentence.

Newport Academy rehabilitation center and Ethan Couch’s alternative to prison, where Judge Boyd delegated him to carry out his probation sentence.

Guest Writer, Katherine Bunting Bachelor of Legal Studies Candidate, Washburn University

Three in the morning, index cards in front of my laptop blotted with words that I’m currently encoding onto Microsoft Word 2007 on my glitchy, end-of-undergrad HP laptop. I just sat back down from washing my face and brewing a cup of coffee. This may or may not take a good chunk of my time before I finally get to bed, but considering racing ideas attribute to as to why I don’t sleep at night, I’m none the bothered. Not by insomnia, anyway. Maybe our judicial system could borrow some of mine, given justice has seemed to fall asleep.

I’ll now rip into what leaves me all the bothered, all the disturbed, all the tearful. That’s the denial of 16-year-old Alex Hribal procedural and substantive due process by the Pennsylvania court system.

In this day and age, with our TV and iPhones there’s no excuse for not knowing of the stabbing attack inflicted onto the people inside Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania last week by the five-foot-two, hundred pound sophomore boy, who had left the premises with the police on account of 21 aggravated assaults and possession of a weapon at school. The aftermath wounds were moderate to critical; eight students were hospitalized. No one was reported dead. Hribal currently sits in Westmoreland juvenile facility, which is roughly all he can do at this point; sit, wait, and pray that he’s tried as he should be, considering he is a child.

Hribal’s prosecutor has it set that he be tried as an adult in court, but his attorney, Patrick Thomassey, is fighting to push for motion for Hribal to be tried in juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be incarceration until 21. Thomassey is ordering a psychiatric evaluation on Hribal to verify any precedence of psychosis, and has disclosed that his young defendant is aware of what he did and the consequences of it in both courts.

However, reports state that the boy is having trouble contemplating the severity of the episode’s aftermath. He’s attested Hribal to have stated things after the incident that conveyed disturbance and portrayed psychotic dialogue, such as that he was scared, he wished for someone to kill him, and “I can’t believe what I just did.”

Hribal was described by his peers to have kept to himself, an introverted person, but a generally nice person regardless. A peer described him to be “kind of a gamer dude.” His yearbook picture, released by the press, shows me a kid just braving typical picture day and the teenage acne that follows us behind the camera, although his face looks a little better than my own was during my sophomore year.

He’s better prepared than many kids who show up in the T-shirt or tank top they might as well have slept in. And Alex would not be the only Hribal in that yearbook either; his brother is in the grade above him. I guess you could say Alex wasn’t popular, but he wasn’t despised either.

What angers me is that no one is considering the trauma and psychological duress that this teen who committed the offense is dealing with, especially when there’s heavily-convincing evidence that he’s suffering from disturbance brought about from psychosis, furthermore in the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, one of the harshest states for someone with a mental challenge to live in.#dixmont #byberry #HR3717 #pennhurst #eastern_state_hospital

I trust I’ve usurped the hashtag well to convey my point on the notoriety Pennsylvania holds for their maintenance of the mentally ill, and another reason why I fear for the fate of Hribal being tried under the mercy of this jurisdiction. Perhaps he should be tried in Texas; practicality litigates that he probably would get a much lighter sentence.

Cranking back time a few months, the trial and sentence of Ethan Couch took place in December 2013, when he fatally hit four people with his truck and severely injured a passenger over the summer while driving intoxicated. As established, Couch is Hribal’s age, and probably the only thing their respective journeys through court will have in common.

That evening in June, Ethan was hanging outwith his buddies. It seemed to be starting out as perhaps a typical summer night for a group of cunning teens, wanting to get drunk and so having stolen beer from Wal-Mart. Couch ended up getting acutely drunk (.26 blood alcohol level, triple the legal level in Texas), taking the wheel of his truck and flooring it at 70 mph in a 40 before hitting a party on the side of the road, causing the loss of a clergyman and three women.

Anyone can bring the news report up on Google and witness the clip of Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter were killed by Couch’s collision that Father’s Day weekend. In addition to the death of the party of four, Couch’s friend, who was planning to be a professional soccer player, is now forever paralyzed and bedridden from the accident.

Interesting enough, the statute that a minor can be tried as an adult for murder or violence at 15 or older is instated in Texas as well as Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, because it probably wouldn’t be very practical to do otherwise, considering his age. Couch was tried as a juvenile and while being tried in court, was found to be a sufferer of a peculiar and novel mental illness, “affluenza.”

Although I doubt you or I will find it in the APA List of Psychiatric Disorders, affluenza apparently was causing Couch to suffer significantly from his family’s excessive wealth and lack of discipline, as to where he’s subdued in a mental state of megalomania. Conclusively, Couch couldn’t be held liable for what he did with such a critical “affluent” condition.

Nevertheless, because his actus reus cannot escape unpunished, the murderer of four has been sentenced to ten years of driving probation and rehabilitation. More specifically, Couch has to face ten years of being chauffeured and exile at a rehabilitation beach house in Newport, CA, undergoing a rigorous program of equine and massage therapy.

What furthermore angers me is that Couch went before court in familiar crisp attire that could probably pay for my philosophy minor. For someone who took four people from this world, he was looking pretty spiffing and cordial, quite dignified; polarized from the privilege of wearing proper clothes at all during his appearance was Hribal, who was taken before court in a hospital tunic, with shackles around his hands and feet

Yes, Hribal wounded over 20 people, and under ordinary scrutiny, wounds can alter a person’s life in the physical and metaphysical senses but in this age generally do not have the potency to end a person’s life the way Couch’s truck’s impact did for four.

The reasonable person wouldn’t have a doubt to begin with that young Alex Hribal is disturbed in a manner beyond his control and needs proper treatment. Couch certainly “was” if you ask Texas Judge Boyd.

Nevertheless, I recognize that there’s divine hope I could be deemed wrong. I hope Hribal’s case proves me wrong, so dead wrong that I can later reopen this document and hit the backspace, running the pointer all the way back to “Three in the Morning”. That conveyed, I take it if Couch can get $450,000 annual therapy for his “psychological condition” being pampered on the West Coast, could I pray for Hribal to get off with six years in a mental institution in Pennsylvania, if that?

Mental illness does not discriminate. Mental illness is not a choice. I do not believe a 16-year-old child should be sentenced on the basis of an effect of a psychiatric deficit that he cannot help. No one should be objected to unfair ruling controlled by something beyond one’s control. Justice has not been served for either of the young men mentioned in this article, but I hope for Hribal to be spared from trial as an adult while he still has time left.

I’m asking you for Alex Hribal’s sake, please don’t be shy in reaching the personnel in Pennsylvania that have the power to deter the potency of this injustice, for we owe our youth their future.

Contact information to Gov. Tom Corbett and other public officals to the state of Pennsylvania can be found at the website