The Facts Determined the Josh Brent Case Not the Affluenza Case
The punishment verdict in the Josh Brent Intoxication Manslaughter trial has received a lot of attention in the media. There was public outrage that the Brent was sentenced to 10 years probation. This week in radio, newspaper, and TV interviews the Dallas District Attorney’s Office has blamed the probation decision by the jury on the so called ‘Affluenza Case’ in which a Tarrant County judge sentenced a Ethan Couch to probation after he plead guilty Intoxication Manslaughter.
The argument that Josh Brent’s jury was influenced by the Ethan Couch case does not make sense. Josh Brent killed his best friend who was a passenger in his car. The victim’s Mother testified on Brent’s behalf and asked the jury for probation. That is the primary reason Josh Brent received probation. I prosecuted cases for a long time with the Dallas District attorney’s Office and participated in many Intoxication Manslaughter cases over the years. In the cases in which the defendant killed a passenger who was a friend it was always difficult to obtain prison time. Any experienced prosecutor or criminal defense attorney will tell you that.
Another factor which played a role in the jury’s decision was the length of time the jury deliberated guilt. The jury was out for two days which seemed usual in this case because the prosecutors presented evidence of a .18 blood test and video of Brent drinking in a bar. Obviously the defense attorney’s in Brent’s case did an outstanding job punching holes in the prosecutor’s evidence and raising doubt. After many hours of deliberation the jury found Brent guilty but there were some jurors who started out deliberations believing the State had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Jurors often compromise during deliberations. The jurors who originally argued for a Not Guilty may have only come around if other stronger jurors would agree to a lighter sentence in punishment. Jurors are not supposed to have such discussion during guilt deliberations but they do..
The facts of the Josh Brent case and how the lawyers used those facts determined the punishment sentence, not some case in Tarrant County. Don’t blame the verdict on other cases. No one can blame the Dallas District Attorney’s Office for seeking prison time in Brent’s case. A citizen lost his life and the case received a lot of publicity. It is that type of case that a jury should decide what the proper punishment will be. In this case this particular jury decided probation was the appropriate sentence. Another group of 12 may have decided 20 years was just. That happens in every trial. A lawyer can always second guess his or her tactics in a trial but don’t start blaming other cases from other counties for the verdict.