Watch the "Affluenza" Psychologist's Frustrating Interview With Anderson Cooper

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 13 2013 11:03 AM

The "Affluenza" Psychologist's Frustrating Interview With Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper spent the better part of a half-hour last night grilling Dr. G. Dick Miller, the defense-called psychologist who used the term "affluenza" in the troubling case of Ethan Couch, the 16-year-old who avoided serving prison time for killing four people in a drunken-driving crash this summer. Above is clip No. 2 of 3 from that interview (you can find all three clips here, but if you only have time for one, No. 2 is probably the one you want).

The interview itself is frustrating, in large part because I'd much rather see Cooper cross-examine Judge Jean Boyd, who is the one who sentenced Couch to 10 years' probation instead of the 20-year prison sentence that prosecutors had asked for. But she has yet to publicly defend her decision, so instead we're left with Miller, who basically argues for the position that we should always err on the side of probation and rehab over prison time.

Advertisement

That's certainly a conversation worth having, but it's not what's causing the outrage over Couch's sentence. Instead the understandable outrcy is over the perception that the relatively lenient sentence was predicated on the fact that the teen's family has lots of money—both because that was the basis for the "affluenza" defense that more or less claimed Couch didn't know his actions had consequences because he came from privilege, and because his parents are the ones footing the bill for his stay at a $450,000-a-year, in-patient rehab facility near Newport Beach as part of the sentence (a center that Cooper repeatedly, and almost compulsively, points out offers "equine therapy.")

It's hard to imagine a poor teen being handed the same sentence for committing the same crime, or even a similar one, but this too is a topic that Miller more or less dodges, preventing Cooper from landing the cathartic knockout blow that viewers no doubt were hoping for. (Then again, Miller probably wasn't the best target for that punch anyway.)

Miller also seems to blur his specific "affluenza" argument when he suggests, more than once, that Couch's is far from a special case. "I wish I hadn't used that term. Everyone seems to have hooked onto it," he told Cooper. "We used to call these people spoiled brats." There's also the issue that throughout the interview Miller repeatedly suggests that Couch wasn't actually responsible for the deaths of the four people that were killed in the crash. He repeatedly takes issue with Anderson describing their deaths as murders, and even goes as far as to push back against the idea that Couch killed them, granting only: "Four people died."

Slate, along with the rest of the Internet, will no doubt have more on this story later, but for now anyone who needs a refresher on the details can find one here.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.