Thursday, 29 March 2007

A Texas juve case creating controversy

A Texas juve case creating controversy

Thanks to posts at TalkLeft and Grits for Breakfast, I have become away of a controversial case of seemingly unduly severe juvenile punishment coming out of Texas. This AP story has these highlights:

A teenager has been jailed for more than a year for shoving a teacher's aide at her high school, sparking anger and heightening racial tensions in rural East Texas. Shaquandra Cotton, now 15, claims the teacher's aide pushed her first and would not let her enter school before the morning bell in 2005.

A jury convicted her in March 2006 on a felony count of shoving a public servant, who was not seriously injured. The girl is in the Ron Jackson Correctional Complex in Brownwood, about 300 miles from her home in Paris.... Under the sentence handed down by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, she will remain at the facility until she meets state rehabilitation standards or reaches her 21st birthday.

But her family and civil rights activists say they want her home now. They are condemning the sentence as unusually harsh and say it shows a justice system that punishes young offenders differently, depending on their race. Creola Cotton, Shaquandra's mother, and activists argue that while Superville sent Shaquandra to the state's juvenile prison system, he gave a white 14-year-old arsonist probation. As many as 400 people marched and rallied in Paris on Tuesday, the second such protest in as many weeks by civil rights groups.

Meanwhile, the Paris school district fiercely denied claims of racism and chided the girl's mother for "playing a game" to start controversy.... Creola Cotton is preventing the district from fairly defending itself by refusing to let the school district make her daughter's entire record public, [Paris school district attorney Dennis] Eichelbaum said. "Mrs. Cotton has been wrongfully attacking the character of the district," Eichelbaum said. "She's being disingenuous with regard to her daughter being an innocent child."...

Prosecutors say they offered Shaquandra a plea agreement that would have reduced the felony charge to a misdemeanor and given her two years' probation. But Creola Cotton rejected the plea behalf of her daughter, prosecutors said.

The Dallas South Blog, whose author Shawn Williams comes from Paris, Texas, offers lots of comments on the case here and here and here. Also, there is a blog, Free Shaquanda Cotton, which pleads "Please help me, Shaquanda Cotton, receive proper justice. Leave me notes of encouragement, donate to my trust fund, and spread the word!" That blog has links to other media coverage of this case.

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