Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the new tyc scandal: shaquanda cotton

Via Capitol Annex we learn of Shaquanda Cotton, a 14-year-old girl that was sentenced for up to seven years in the Texas Youth Commission for pushing a hall monitor at her high school in Paris, Texas.

The Chicago Tribune broke this story nationally March 12, comparing Cotton's sentence to that of a white teenager that committed an arguably more heinous act:
Just three months earlier, [Lamar County Judge Chuck] Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.

"All Shaquanda did was grab somebody and she will be in jail for 5 or 6 years?" said Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who is president of the state NAACP branch. "It's like they are sending a signal to black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated."

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune
Vince at Capitol Annex suggests that this story has been underreported by the Texas media. NTL searched the websites of the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for Cotton's name and found no results.


Anonymous said...

FACT: This juvenile girl assaulted a teacher, who by Texas law is a public servant, in September 2005. It was witnessed first-hand by two other teachers who testified.

FACT: Before trial, the Lamar County and District Attorney's Office (prosecutors) offered a plea bargain reduction from felony to misdemeanor assault and 2 years juvenile probation, which the mother and defense attorney turned down.

FACT: The juvenile had a trial and was found adjudicated delinquent by a jury (we don't refer to juveniles as "guilty" or "not guilty" in Texas - it's "adjudicated" or "not adjudicated") in March of 2006.

FACT: After the jury adjudicated the juvenile as delinquent, the defense asked Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to set punishment. The defense could have had a jury set punishment, but asked for the judge to decide.

FACT: This juvenile did NOT receive 7 years in prison. She was given an indeterminate sentence to the Texas Youth Commission, which means her conduct and cooperation with their behavior rehabilitation programs determines when she gets out. Minimum time to complete those programs is 9 months. She entered TYC in March 2006 and could have been out in December 2006 if she was being cooperative. But note that she never had to go to TYC in the first place: she could have gotten probation.

FACT: Texas statute under the Family Code (governing juveniles) left 2 options for the judge: 1) release the juvenile on probation back to a family member who verbally assures the judge that cooperative efforts to meet probation conditions will be met, and 2) sentence to the Texas Youth Commission. Often, parents are part of the problem and other family members step forward to offer to take the juvenile in their care and see to it probation conditions are met. NO other family members came forward and this juvenile's mother (Creola Cotton) told the judge she would not comply with conditions of probation. The judge's hands were tied by the law and he had no other choice but TYC.

FACT: School officials testified during the punishment phase that this juvenile had been a continuous discipline problem and that her mother continually defended her actions, telling her she did nothing wrong, and fought against disciplinary actions against her daughter for legitimate infractions.

FACT: The defense filed an appeal, fired the defense attorney trial attorney they hired (Wesley Newell of Dallas) and alleged ineffective assistance of counsel (saying the defense attorney didn't do his job well enough). The Court of Appeals in Texarkana ruled that the juvenile would not be released on bond pending their final appeal decision. That decision has not yet been handed down.

FACT: This juvenile would not be in TYC if her mother had agreed to cooperate with conditions of probation after the jury found her essentially guilty.

You will find these facts with additional comments at http://www.lamarcountyattorney.com/cotton.html

Pat Adams said...

Anonymous is stating fiction (not FACT), created by Gary Young to defame the good name of Creola Cotton and her sweet daughter, Shaquanda. The Chicago Tribune confronted him on the lie and you'll see when you follow the link to the "facts" that they have been removed from the server. Shaquanda's awful ordeal was a retaliatory act designed to punish the family for Creola Cotton's activism.