When Omar Jahwar thinks of Ethan Couch, he cannot help but think of color and class.
“There is a broken justice system,” Jahwar said. “We can see it if we are honest. It is broken for those who are poor and those who are of a certain race.”
Jawhwar, founder of Urban Specialists, a non-profit organization that targets youth in at-risk communities in Dallas, believes the Couch case would have had a different outcome had the defendant been poor or black.
“If Ethan was named Omar, the news [headline] would say, ‘Judge appropriately gives…’ and you can go from there with the punishment,” Jawhar said.
The United States Sentencing Commission, a non-partisan agency within the Department of Justice, has analyzed sentencing data three times since 2010. The commission’s most recent study from November 2017 backs up the frustrating reality Jahwar sees every day.
The data shows black men on average receive 19.1 percent longer sentences than white men who are convicted of the very same crime.
Eric Miller is an example. Judge Jean Boyd, who sentenced Couch to probation, nine years earlier sentenced Miller to 20 years in prison for driving drunk and killing one person.
“They kept telling us, ‘Eric is going to get probation. Don’t worry about it,’” Miller’s grandfather Don Chaffin said in 2013, when Couch was on the run in Mexico.
While Miller was raised in poverty by his grandfather and had a court-appointed lawyer, Couch’s attorneys have been named Texas “Super Lawyers” by various publications.
“There has to be justice that’s not linked directly to dollars,” Jahwar said.
“And it’s not that this young man cannot recover, it’s that others should be given the same opportunity. I guess they don’t have affluenza, they may have ‘poorfluenza.’”