Free Shaquanda Cotton

Posted in community, events, issues, life, lost one, love, school by Tanae' A. on March 27, 2007

Why is Shaquanda Cotton in Prison?

By Kim Pearson, 7:47 am, Sun 18 Mar 2007

Shaquanda Cotton, 15, of Paris Texas, is entering the second year of a 7-year prison term for pushing a hall monitor at her high school 2005. Reportedly, there were no serious injuries in the incident and this was her first arrest. Cotton is black. The same judge had recently sentenced a white teenager to probation for arson.

During her imprisonment, Cotton has tried to seriously hurt herself three times. She says she is depressed and afraid of the other girls, most of whom have prior criminal records and serious felony convictions. She told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Howard Witt:

“I get paranoid when I get around some of these girls,” Shaquanda said. “Sometimes I feel like I just can’t do this no more–that I can’t survive this.”

A guard at the prison where she is being held is accused of molesting four girls. The board responsible for overseeing the Texas juvenile justice system amid charges that they covered up sex abuse scandals in several of the facilities it oversees.

Cotton’s supporters say that her case reflects a long-standing pattern of racist treatment in a town whose best-known landmark is the public fairgrounds where black men were routinely lynched as white spectators cheered. The court and prosecutors reportedly denied a Chicago Tribune reporter’s request for comment.

Cotton’s mother said her daughter was singled out because she accused the school district of racism on several occasions. In fact, 12 discrimination complaints have been filed against the school district in recent years. School district officials dispute the charges, but the US Department of Education, which is still investigating, has reportedly asked the US Department of Justice to investigate.

Meanwhile, Mother at Chittlins and Chopsticks has issued a call to action:

“Mothers Unite!
(fathers, brothers, sisters,uncles, aunties, cousins, too)

I can’t stand to see this child suffer like this. She’s already been in that hell hole a year. We must do something…”

Here’s what’s being done:

1. Messages of support are being solicited at Shaquanda’s blog.

2. She also receive mail here:
Ron Jackson Correctional Complex,
Unit 2, Dorm 4
P.O. Box 872
Brownwood, Texas 76804

3. A Facebook group has been created. In addition to the news and discussion generated there, the group has held a networked prayer vigil for Shaquanda.

4. Paula Mooney is urging that protest letters be sent to Judge Chuck Superville, who handed down the sentence:

Honorable M.C. (Chuck) Superville, Jr., Judge
Lamar County Courthouse
119 North Main
Paris, TX 75460
Phone # 903-737-2410
Fax # 903-785-3858

5. Letters can also be sent to Texas Gov. Rick Perry through his website.

Cross-posted at Professor Kim’s News Notes


5 Responses

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  1. john griffey said, on March 29, 2007 at 12:27 am

    i understand that shaquanda,s father has passed away. do you know an address where a donation to the family can be sent to ease their burden?

  2. tae2918 said, on March 29, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    No, I only have mailing addresses for Shaquanda and the Judge. I can look into it for you tho.

  3. MysticPistol said, on March 31, 2007 at 4:41 am

    BREAKING NEWS: Cotton to be released

    Staff reports
    The Paris News

    Published March 30, 2007

    Shaquanda Cotton is to be released Saturday from the Texas Youth Commission facility in Brownwood, according to a report from the Associated Press.

    “We are glad she is getting out and are happy for her family but we have concerns about the way it is happening,” Lamar County District Attorney spokesman Allan Hubbard said.

    Rep. Harold Dutton, the Houston Democrat who chairs the House juvenile justice committee, said the newly appointed conservator of the Texas Youth Commission told him Cotton was being freed, according to the AP report.

    “This is one of those cases that is the poster child of everything wrong with the criminal justice system,” Dutton told the AP.

    Dutton said he was informed of Cotton’s pending release by Jay Kimbrough, who Gov. Rick Perry appointed to investigate the agency accused of ignoring multiple allegations of sexual and physical abuse of young inmates.

    “Apparently, cases that get the most public attention can grab the ear of state legislators who can simply order people to be freed from incarceration,” Hubbard said. “That sets an alarming precedent.”

    Local activist Brenda Cherry, a friend of the girl’s mother, confirmed that they have been told of Shaquanda’s release.

    “She should be home by tomorrow,” Cherry said.

    Dutton told the AP late today that the 15-year-old would be released to her mother on Saturday. He said Creola Cotton was unable to pick up her daughter on Friday because of bad weather.

    THE FOLLOWING IS FROM http://www.lamarcountyattorney.com/cotton.html

    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


  4. DryerBuzz said, on July 10, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Updates on Shaquanda Cotton?s Case. New this week (July 9, 2007) interview with Cotton?s Mother Creola Cotton, Brenda Cherry and more. Plus updates on Ginarlow Wilson case (GA). http://www.DryerBuzz.com or find archive at http://www.BlogTalkRadio.com/DryerBuzz

  5. Advancement Project said, on July 25, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Hi, I wrote a blog about structural/Institutional racism in the United States linking together the cases of the Jena Six trial in Louisiana, Shaquanda Cotton in Texas, and Genarlow Wilson in Georgia. It is a national phenomena that young black children are being locked away for minor crimes.


    I think it is important to put a face on structural and institutional racism in America. It is claiming real victims, and they are getting younger by the day now that Zero-tolerance policies have come about.

    C.B. from Advancement Project

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