‘Affluenza effect’ explains decision to reduce murder suspect’s bail, Texas lawyer says

Morgan Sims is charged with murder in the death of her husband, Daray.
Morgan Sims is charged with murder in the death of her husband, Daray. Collin County Jail

Morgan Sims told police she had been abused and was defending herself, court records show.

Officers responding to a report of a disturbance had just found her husband, Daray Sims, face down on the floor of a bathroom in their McKinney, Texas home about 37 miles northeast of Dallas on April 20, according to court documents.

Her 37-year-old husband was found shot to death, WFAA reported, while authorities say Morgan Sims was found in a black Range Rover several miles away from the bloody scene, the Dallas Morning News reported.

A pistol was recovered from the car, authorities told the newspaper. An attorney for Daray Sims’ family noted that Sims had her passport and $9,000 on her when police found her in the Range Rover.

Sims, 33, was arrested on charges of murder and other offenses, Patch reported. Her only apparent explanation was that she had been abused by her husband; she didn’t elaborate, according to an affidavit.

Court records show Sims had a bail reduction hearing, where a judge reduced her $1.5 million bond to $140,000. “She can get out of jail for $14,000” if she pays a bail bondsman the standard 10 percent, lawyer Craig Watkins told the Dallas Morning News.

Watkins responded to the Friday decision with a relatively new term that got national attention in 2013. He told the Dallas Morning News the “affluenza effect” motivated the reduction of bail.

"They've seen the affluenza effect in Collin County," Watkins told the newspaper. "We see it when a person of color is killed by someone who is Anglo." (Sims is white and her husband was black.)

The “affluenza” term was used by a psychologist for the defense in the drunken driving case against Ethan Couch, who was behind the wheel of a Ford F-350 when authorities say he fatally struck four people in Burleson, Texas, CNN reported. The city is roughly 72 miles southwest of McKinney.

The psychologist had testified that Couch, who was 16 at the time of the crash, had a privileged, wealthy upbringing that affected his ability to know right from wrong, CNN said.

Couch initially got no jail time, but violated his probation and fled to Mexico, with the help of his mother, in 2015, authorities said, WFAA reported. He ended up getting almost two years in prison.

Couch was released from jail early last month, the Star-Telegram reported.

An attorney for Morgan Sims says he’s baffled by Watkins' use of the term.

"I don't understand what Mr. Watkins means by affluenza," Toby Shook told the Dallas Morning News. "Obviously, Morgan Sims told police she was abused by the deceased. And the investigator admitted there were injuries to Ms. Sims' face and arms when she was taken into custody."

The New York Post reports that Sims was still behind bars as of Friday, according to jail records.