The Value of Human Life

Value of Life


By Paul A. Esquivel

Before you read this, think of someone you love. Think of someone you couldn’t live without whether that be a parent, a son, a daughter, a friend or a spouse. Imagine if they were robbed of growing old and their life was snuffed out because someone did some drugs, got drunk then drove into them.

That’s what happened the night of June 15, 2013. The man behind it all was Ethan Couch. It’s been reported that Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit at the time of the crash. His actions took four lives, injured nine and the impact left families changed forever.

It was around 11 p.m. in Burleson, Texas, when 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell’s Mercury Mountaineer spun out and crashed into a culvert. Eric Boyles, Hollie Boyles and Shelby Boyles had just finished watching a movie when they heard the commotion outside their home and saw the disabled vehicle and Mitchell calling for help.

Mitchell used Shelby Boyles’ cell phone to call her mother. Shelby’s father picked up a mailbox that had been knocked over and took it back to his house. Just down the road a graduation party had wrapped up and Pastor Brian Jennings had loaded up his truck with chairs borrowed from the church. Brian’s godson Lucas and his friend rode along with him to return the chairs when they came on the disabled Mountaineer. Brian stopped and got out to help, telling Lucas and his friend to stay put.

These were good people just trying to do right by helping a stranger. It’s that Southern hospitality you know to be true despite the stereotypes of it being the “polite while sticking it to you” thing. These strangers’ paths crossed because they came together to help someone. It’s the kind of moment that allows you to see the good in humanity and gives you a sense of hope. But what happened that night also forces the question I’ve heard asked my entire life.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Earlier in the evening Couch had been drinking with some friends and was now in his truck headed straight for the group of good Samaritans. He was speeding recklessly while playing chicken with other cars on the road when he came about the disabled vehicle and the ending is the one everyone knows now.

I used to live near Burleson and still have friends who live there. I remember seeing some posts about there being a really bad crash on Facebook and it wasn’t unusual at first because you see those posts from time to time and then maybe the news reports it if there were fatalities or it has to do with traffic. Then news broke on how it was a drunk driver who was a kid and it wasn’t his first time being drunk and in a car.

The more details that came out, the surer I was that this kid was going pay for what he had done. Then the phrase “affluenza” was said and everything flipped upside down. The outrage was there but what was crazy was how fast the outrage diminished. The outrage culture then became offended instead about the Duck Dynasty star at the time who began to say homophobic comments and lost his show.

People in the towns of Burleson and Mansfield as well as the surrounding areas posted more about how mad they were at A&E than with the teen who got away with murder because he was rich. It was so frustrating to see but the apathetic attitude swept in fast. And why wouldn’t it? One thing the international media got wrong when reporting on the drinking and drug use of the teens in the area was that it was rare or something. The Mansfield/Burleson areas have no shortage of teens like Couch with classism attitudes. Maybe it’s the white flight to the area, or maybe it isn’t.

The fire for justice all but burnt out until the cellphone video of Couch surfaced showing him partying, clearly violating his probation from the original sentence. No one in that courtroom believed Couch was going to stick to his probation and the video only proved what we already knew was going to happen.

I am just stating facts and not bashing on either of the towns. I know great people who live there and proof of good honest people living there are the ones who lost their lives the night of June 15, 2013.

Everything about Ethan Couch’s trial has proved to me a lot about America. It shows me classism exists and that rich people don’t have to play by the same rules as the rest of us. It showed me people who play by the rules get punished. It showed me that society gives rich white kids all the chances they want, saying they are troubled or need help, but poor minority kids are thugs up to no good or as Hillary put it, super predators, and don’t deserve any benefit of the doubt. It showed me the value of what a human life is worth.

For Ethan Couch, a human life is worth just 180 days in jail. It showed me that the old saying is all but too true. “There is no justice, just us” and the capitalist created monster that feeds on greed will continue to be the ultimate decider in the courtrooms. I learned the courts don’t care about the truth or what’s right, just whose team is paid more.