September 19th, 2007
03:00 PM ET
16 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. Mike Orlando, Fl

    I'm glad that Hillary is stepping forward and asking the federal govt to do something about this case. This has gone too far and these teens are not being treated fairly. GO HILL!

    September 19, 2007 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  2. James, Phoenix AZ

    A "teachable" moment, Hillary?

    Lesson: 6 kids (who cares about color) beat up 1 kid (who cares about color) and leave him unconcious. When the 6 kids are charged with a crime, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Hillary Clinton shout "Racism" to have your charges dismissed.

    No thanks, Hillary. I think you and Bill have taught our kids enough "lessons" about scandal, pandering, and the abuse of power.

    September 19, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. P. Winslow

    And where, pray tell, was Senator Clinton during the Duke Lacrosse injustices? Where was her request to the Bush Administration concerning a renegade Democrat prosecutor?

    Oh, that's right.

    Teachable moment, indeed.

    September 19, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. Steve, New York

    I’m sorry but if this situation was reversed and 6 white kids beet up a black kid not only would they been charged the same, but HATE CRIME charges would have been added. I’m about sick of the double standard reverse discrimination in this country.

    September 19, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. Keith - Atlanta, GA

    Last time I checked a white youth was almost beaten to death by several black youths. When I hear of civil rights violation I think that is truly where this lies. There is a difference between offending words and violence.

    Sharpton is not condoning the actions of violence. If anyone should be having a civil rights protest it should be a collective group of whites.

    September 19, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Jesse bellows and Hillary jumps. What a bunch of bozos! The essential fact of Jena is that black boys allegedly beat white boys seriously enough to warrant the charges, and it was over their "turf" under a tree, not in self-defense. Stop committing crimes and watch the racial unrest disappear.

    September 19, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. C.LyOns, New York, NY


    There is a difference beaten aggravated assualt and attempted murder- something like 5-10 years in a maximum security prison. Now that's a teachable lesson.

    September 19, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. enko, NJ

    Now i understand why Ralph Nader calls Mrs Clinton a "panderer" – He is right!!!

    September 19, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  9. KebD, Flint

    For Clinton: Jena 6 is a 'Political Moment.' (sad, but true)

    September 19, 2007 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. Leah, Houston,Tx

    James in phoenix, Hilliary did what yo did, she looked at all the facts and made a statment, unequal justice means the whites that jump the black boy should be charged with the same, and the white boys used bottles, so james please tell what should happen to the white boys all they was simple battery charges and and black boys jump a white and didnt use bottles and they are charged with attempted murder and the white was not beaten unconcious just something the white people threw in there to make it sound worst then what it is

    September 19, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. Don Provenzano, Oceanside California


    September 19, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. BCNU purple state, usa

    I think the only teaching going on is how to "commandeer the bandwagon". Come on Hill, get in front of an issue why don't you. My neighbor has a parrot that can outperform you, albeit his attire isn't quite as colorful.

    Maybe the common denominator in tragedies of late (Katrina/New Orleans – Jena) is Louisiana.

    My teachable moment.

    September 19, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Lyn, MD

    She is such a panderer...why didn't she speak out weeks ago when Obama did

    September 19, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  14. Jeannie, Sacramento, CA

    Sometimes, politicians pander to the lowest levels that it makes my skin crawl - just like Hillary Clinton is pandering to the Al Sharpton racist crowd now, just like Giuliani's trying to impress us by going to London and tying up the support of Thatcher's henchmen. Hillary and Giuliani BOTH were absent during the Duke lacrosse team fiasco when in fact, they should've been in Sharpton's and Jackson's faces! It's amazing what questionable character traits an election can bring out in people!

    September 19, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  15. b-rocks New York, NY

    If Barack Obama had made that very same phone call to Al Sharpton's radio show, there would be an onslaught of racist postings from Hillary Clinton supporters (the same kind of shocking postings we saw after the event with Oprah Winfrey).

    To them, whatever Hillary Clinton does is okay.

    September 19, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  16. slinkymalinky

    Hillary's idea of teaching mandated race tolerance..

    Six guys stomp and kick one guy unconscious.
    If six are black and one white, this is not attempted murder, but if its the other way around, its a hate crime.

    September 19, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. Dick Jacobs, Scottsdale, AZ

    Why is everyone (politician) rushing to take the cause of six kids who almost beat to death one other kid? Who needs defending here?

    September 19, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Wallace, Chicago, IL


    Stop the nonsense. Read the article first and then pass judgement. Stop putting race first. An excerpt of the article is below. Stop the Spin James. There is more than meets the eye.

    "Barker was taken to a hospital with injuries to both eyes and ears, as well as cuts. His right eye had blood clots, said his mother, Kelli Barker. He was treated and released that day."

    Blood clots? Are you serious? More will come out about this, but Barker was treated and then went to a school function/party the same day...but his mother also said that he was "nearly beaten to death".

    Don't get me wrong, regardless of the nonsense they (Jena 6)experienced and the racism encountered, they should not have harmed Barker, but to charge them as adults with assault and battery, etc., when they are only minors? That is wrong. The crime should fit the punishment.

    Were you ever been in a fight as a teenager? Were you charged with "Assault and Battery" and later learned that the same guy that you supposedly "nearly beat to death" was fine?

    Also, what if this happened to your child. What if the school was predominantly black and the shoes were on the other feet? Would you still say that this isn't a "teachable moment"?


    p.s. just read the article before passing judgement and do your own research.

    September 19, 2007 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  19. pl. at the UN for a while.

    Ms Rodham Clinton approach here is as presidential as presidential can be.

    September 19, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  20. Common Sense

    Just goes to show you how low this woman will stoop. She thinks that by jumping on board of this movement of the moment and doing EXACTLY what jesse jackson says Obama should be doing, it puts her in the right. Instead, it only damns her because she clearly does not care about this case, or she would have spoken out about it far earlier, and not at a time when it could most make her look like obama's senior. This is pathetic, and i hope people see through this transparent woman.

    September 19, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. JS, Orlando Florida

    James in Phoenix AZ... Please don't be so shallow and ignorant. Look at the ENTIRE scenario and then state your point. If you have issues against Mrs. Clinton – state those, but don’t be ignorant toward the Jena 6 situation!

    Kids (no matter their color) are intimidated to SIT under a tree in their school. When clarified by the Vice Principal that there are no designated seats under a tree for any particular person, they sit there. The next day nooses are hanging from the tree, one for each kid that sat there the day before. A typical ‘school yard prank’. Nothing except a three day suspension was given to the culprits of this prank.

    Kids (no matter their color) find this disrespectful and mostly a threat. All kids go back and forth with tactics and end up in a fight where one is retaliated against in a typical ‘school yard fight’. The six of these kids were given jail sentences; not suspensions.

    Do you see an inequality here? I do. Yes there is a lesson… Lesson: Inequality should not be tolerated ANYWHERE in the world, let alone America!

    September 19, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. Ryan, New York, NY

    Coincidence that this call to Sharpton happened on the same day that Jackson says that Obama "is acting white" because he's not talked about it enough? Or is it a coordinated hit squad?

    As for the Jena 6 thing, from what I've heard in the news, it sounds like race played a part in how extreme the punishment was. It also reeks of improper judicial procedures. When the a public defender doesn't call witnesses and jury members have associations with the victim's family, it's impossible to call the trial fair.

    My main problem with the outcome of this case is the precedent that it sets for future crimes. When we're trying to preach to kids not to use guns to solve their problems, we punish some kids who get into a fight as though they used a gun (attempted murder, aggravated battery). The fact that they even considered filing charges of attempted 2nd degree murder for a victim who attended a school function later in the same day as the attack is just the wrong signal to send.

    I don't want kids assaulting each other, but I do want see the penalties fit the crime if they do. If some other high school student looks at this case as an example of how they'll be treated if they beat up a rival at school, what's to stop him from putting a few bullets in the rival if the penalty is going to be the same.

    September 19, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. Mr Semprini, USA

    I've been taught so much by this teachable moment...

    September 19, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. Connie, Tn.

    Is that a case of Hillary acting "black"?

    September 19, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. TA, Campania, Neo Roman Empire

    Hilary=just another mercenary/politician selling her services/pandering to the highest bidder/most public situation

    Hmmmm.....there were two comments here earlier, notwithstanding mine, which will more than likely be thanks to Fascist CNN.

    September 19, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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