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DA Wants Teen On Probation For Deadly DWI Crash Back Behind Bars

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TARRANT COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – Days after a North Texas teen was sentenced to probation for hitting and killing four people while driving drunk the Tarrant County District Attorney is calling for his incarceration.

District Attorney Joe Shannon released a statement stating his future intentions for Ethan Couch, the 16-year-old who caused the deadly wreck near Burleson.

“During his recent trial, the 16-year-old admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter and two cases of intoxication assault. There has been no verdict formally entered in the two intoxication assault cases. Every case deserves a verdict. The District Attorney’s Office is asking the court to incarcerate the teen on the two intoxication assault cases. Due to limitations in the Family Code, we are unable to make additional comments.”

Before the statement was released the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office had been busy pushing Texas lawmakers to close the juvenile law loopholes that allowed Couch to receive only probation for the deadly crash.

The controversy surrounding Couch’s probation is showing no signs of easing up, especially after the teenager admitted to driving drunk and causing the June crash that killed four people and severely injured two others.

Relatives of the victims were outraged the teen only received 10 years probation. State Representative Charlie Geren from Fort Worth felt the same way and has been talking to prosecutors about the case.

“I’m going to work with them to craft legislation that will prevent a person that kills someone from getting probation, without doing any time in jail at all,” explained Geren. “Rehabilitation is good, that’s what we want for kids. But when you kill four people you need to do some time in jail in my opinion.”

Representative Geren doesn’t expect any new legislation to be introduced until the next regular session begins in 2015.

Judge Jean Boyd, who is not seeking re-election and is retiring in December of 2014, was the public official who sentenced Couch. In court she said that even though Couch was responsible for what happened she didn’t believe he would get the necessary therapy and treatment in jail.

The night of the crash still haunts Sara Smith, from Burleson. The 19-year-old nurse technician was on her way home and drove up on the scene.

“I threw my car into park and I just ran into it screaming ‘I can help. I’m a nurse. I can help, let me help.’ The EMT started putting me to work,” remembers Smith. “At that moment I knew this was a horrible accident… looking around me I could see this was a disaster.”

Smith said in all the chaos she started pulling victims out of ditches, and putting them in ambulances, and getting vitals. She says the events of that day are embedded in her mind and she still deals with what she witnessed.

“I’d have panic attacks and just anxiety. I just couldn’t be by myself.  I can’t tell you how many times I just cried over how horrible everything was and just how sad the whole situation was.”

Smith said she couldn’t believe it when she heard Couch only got probation.

Since the crash Smith has even been asked to speak at a high school about drinking and driving. She hasn’t decided if she’ll accept the invitation and wonders if she did what she would say to the students.

“It’s still hard knowing that the justice system in my eyes has somewhat failed,” Smith said. “Had this been my family… that I lost someone, I would be doing everything in my power to change the laws to where it doesn’t matter. You killed four people you do the punishment for it.”

If and when Couch goes to trial for intoxication assault he will once again be tried in juvenile court. For now, Ethan Couch remains in Tarrant County juvenile detention.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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