September 19th, 2007
03:00 PM ET
15 years ago

Clinton: 'Jena 6' a 'teachable moment'

Clinton said the Jena case is a 'teachable moment for America.'

(CNN)- Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, says the controversy surrounding the "Jena 6" court case is a "teachable moment for America."

"People need to understand that we cannot let this kind of inequality and injustice happen anywhere in America," the Democratic presidential hopeful told Rev. Al Sharpton when she called into his nationally syndicated radio program Tuesday afternoon.

She was speaking about a case in the town of Jena, Louisiana, where six African-American teenagers were initially charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit attempted murder in connection with the Dec. 4 beating of a white student.

Last Friday, the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Lake Charles, Louisiana threw out the conviction for second degree battery against one of the boys, Mychal Bell, saying the charges should have been brought in juvenile court. Charges against Bell were reduced, as were charges against Carwin Jones and Theodore Shaw, who have not yet come to trial. Bryant Purvis and an unidentified juvenile remain charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The New York senator said she has put a request into the Bush administration to ask the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to investigate the case because, "we have a responsibility to confront racial injustice and intolerance anywhere." She said she did so because she was troubled by reports that the youths were charged and sentenced in a manner that may have been inconsistent with what was called for.

On Thursday, thousands of people are expected to march on the small central Louisiana town to protest what they feel are excessive criminals charges and bond amounts for the teens.

–CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford

Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Plainfield, NJ

    A lot of you continue to mention the Duke Lacrosse incident. Although I feel as though it was wrong for them to be wrongfully indicted, the factor still remains that they were vindicated. Unfortunately there are two legal systems in this country-one for whites and another for minorities. We need to remember that the Duke students were not held in jail with and outrageous bail, and the prosecuter is now unemployed. At the end of the day, justice was served because they were innocent and went free. Will the same happen for The Jena 6?

    September 26, 2007 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  2. J. Detroit, Mi

    Does this mean Hilary Clinton is a racist?

    Sounds like it doesn't it?

    How can anyone think Sharpton is anything but a racist? He consistently treats Black and white people differently.

    September 28, 2007 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  3. J. Detroit, Mi

    Also the assumption that there is a different legal system for whites and blacks is both racist and ignorant.

    For the rich and the poor yes...but not whites and blacks.

    September 28, 2007 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  4. Mike Ohio

    The Jenna 6 case is an interesting case because it has put so many people in a ackward position. By all mainstream media accounts, there seems to be no issue about the fact that these 6 juveniles beat another juvenile unconsious. It also appears from everything in the public record that the DA intentionally overcharged the defendants to get them into adult court where they would face longer sentences. Based on the information in the public domain it appears that the juveniles should have been charged with what Louisanna law defines as Second Degree Battery" and prosecuted in the juvenile system. And that is what should happen to them. The fact that white students hung nooses in the tree does not justify beating some one unconscious. The students responsible for that display should be prosecuted as well for what Louisanna law defines as "Assault" or potentially "Aggravated Assault." As for the DA the State Bar should look into whether or not he abused his power relative to how he handled this case, much like the Duke prosecutor was. Clinton is right this is a teachable moment. Rather than trying to justify the actions of one side or the other, we should be able to say that all parties are wrong and should be held accountable for their role. This is a time for a national conversation about personal responsibility and accountability. Rather than a rally cry of Free the Jenna Six, the rally cry should be for Justice in Jenna. Justice for the victim of beating, Justice for the accused (ie a prosecution that fits the crime), Justice for the black students who suffered an implicit threat of violence, and Justice for the whole community in the knowledge that the law is not being minipulated to serve personal or political purposes.

    September 28, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  5. Tia, Chicago, IL

    I find it sad that so many of these comments are so ignorant. More than six white kids beat up 1 black kid and they were not charged the same nor were hate crime charges attached despite the use of racial epithets. By the way, the black kids didn't beat the white kid nearly to death....the white boy was a party having a blast the next night. Do your research before you comment. The issue isn't so much that the black kids were charged with a crime but that the white kids weren't charged for any of the crimes that they committed. Second, that the black kids were charged for ATTEMPTED MURDER where the weapon was a TENNIS SHOE. It's not ok to attack anyone be they black or white but everyone should receive the SAME TREATMENT regardless of their race.

    December 20, 2007 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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