Family Wants Civil Trial in Affluenza Drunken Driving Case

One of the families affected in a high profile drunk driving case out of Tarrant County is speaking out and saying it plans to go to trial with a civil lawsuit.

The McConnell family of Burleson says it's suit, filed after last June's fatal drunk driving crash, will not be settled and will proceed through depositions and a jury trial.

Lucas McConnell, now 13, was hurt in that crash. Four people were killed and several others were also injured. Among those killed was Brian Jennings, a youth pastor at Alsbury Baptist Church and a McConnell family friend.

Lucas was riding in the back of Jennings' truck when he stopped to help Breanna Mitchell, who's car had broken down outside Hollie and Shelby Boyles' home just outside of Burleson.

In December, Ethan Couch admitted to driving drunk and hitting the pedestrians and injuring several people in his dad's company's truck. Couch was sentenced 10 years probation as well as time at a treatment facility as his punishment, handed down by juvenile court Judge Jean Boyd.

Seven families filed suit against Ethan Couch, his mother, his father and father's company Cleburne Sheet Metal. Six have settled, but the McConnell's announced on Wednesday they plan on proceeding to trial and Lucas said he still wants to know why.

"I keep finding myself asking, 'why this happened,'" Lucas McConnell said. "And I just have yet seen anything good to come out of it."

McConnell suffered minor injuries to his back and head in the crash, where he and another friend had to crawl out of Jennings truck through broken glass and twisted steal. Lucas McConnell then saw his family friend, akin to his uncle, Jennings dead on the side of the road.

"He (Jennings) was a very important role model in Lucas' life," said Kevin McConnell, Lucas' father.

The McConnell's attorney, Todd Clement, said the family isn't after a specific monetary amount, but rather want accountability and responsibility to hit the Couch family.

"The tragedy that Lucas went through as a 12-year-old boy, there needs to be some accountability," Kevin McConnell.

Clement says none of the families feel like that's been achieved yet tin this case, not through the civil settlements or the criminal case. 

"There would be a completely different feeling among all the victims and the attorneys if there had been a different outcome in the criminal trial," Clement said. "What would give this family justice is the full story being told and indeed having 12 citizens sitting on the jury, deciding what should be done."

And maybe finding some kind of understanding for those still reeling from the tragic accident.

"I know everyone always says things happen for a reason, but I haven't really seen the reason yet and I know I would like to," Lucas McConnell said.

No trial date has been set, but Clement says depositions in the case could start as early as late April.

He says among those being deposed, Dick Miller, the psychologist used as part of Couch's criminal defense. Miller used the phrase "affluenza" during the trial, which garnered national attention. 

Clement says the McConnell's feel that the Couch family hasn't been cured of its affluenza yet and that's part of why they're going ahead with the civil lawsuit trial.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us