As criminal defense lawyers, we’ve all been there. A client with little to no defense while facing serious charges. You reach back into the file, re-read the entire record, and hope something will jump out at you in hopes of something to help your client. I am sure a similar scenario played out for the criminal defense lawyer representing Ethan Couch in Texas several years ago. On June 15, 2013, Couch, 16 years old at the time, was partying and drinking with his teenage friends in Burleston, Texas. He and his friends then decided to leave the house, and Couch opted to drive them in his parents’ pick-up truck to another location across town. Couch was intoxicated and, with about 6 of his friends in the pick-up truck, began speeding on a narrow two lane road. He weaved off the road, and stuck several park cars and plowed into four pedestrians on the sidewalk. All four of the pedestrians were killed and many others seriously injured.
In recent news, an Illinois man, Joshua Spudich, pled guilty to aggravated driving under the influence and was sentenced to 11 years in prison by Kane County Judge Susan Clancy Boles. In his system, he had a mixture of five different drugs when he got behind the wheel. He then veered out of his driving lane into oncoming traffic striking a motorist which resulted in that victim’s death. Spudich attributed the incident to him taking depression medication prior to him driving. This case highlights the dangers of going behind the wheel while impaired. In representing defendants in DUI cases, the typical case involves a routine traffic stop followed by an officer’s suspicion that the driver is under the influence. That suspicion triggers the officer’s duty to conduct a field sobriety test and then ultimately a breathalyzer to determine the driver’s blood alcohol content. In New Jersey, there are strict guidelines issued by the Office of the Attorney General as to the specific procedures that must be followed in order to ensure that the officers are accurately assessing an individual’s fitness to drive. The end result is often an arrest followed by municipal court charges that result in some form of a license suspension.
On September 2015, prosecutors in Monroe County, Pennsylvania released the gruesome details of a college hazing of a Baruch college student. The release of the grand jury transcript reveals a pledge member, Chun Hsien Deng, of the Baruch’s Delta Psi chapter, an Asian American cultural fraternity, was made to wear a blindfold and a 30 pound backpack along with other would-be fraternity members during a pledging in Pennsylvania. Deng, along with other pledge members, were then forced to run “the Gauntlet,” wherein members of the fraternity would form two lines and have the new pledges run down it while being struck by members on both sides. Deng reportedly received the severest of beatings and suffered blunt trauma injuries as the pledging escalated. He ultimately died of those injuries. Fraternity members then attempted to hide and destroy evidence. Five Baruch college students now face murder charges.