Chris Uggen's Blog: jena 6 (non-)post

Monday, September 24, 2007

jena 6 (non-)post

several have urged me to write about the jena 6 case. i've got little new to offer, so i'm referring folks to more knowledgeable observers.

as several crim/law bloggers have pointed out, this is a case about a twisty sequence of events. competing versions of each event are being reported, such that the ever-elusive "basic facts of the case" are particularly elusive in jena, louisiana. criminal defense attorney jeralyn merritt offers her characteristically thoughtful libertarian-leaning-lefty perspective on ms merritt:

While I still can't make judgments as to much of the story, I have no problem declaring the case one of prosecutorial over-charging and abuse of a system that allows prosecutors discretion in charging juveniles as adults... The key legal question being asked is whether the Jena Six have been or are being prosecuted unfairly based on racial considerations. Unfortunately, many of the facts necessary to make the determination are in dispute, confusing or unverified by impartial sources.

the jena case(s) bring to light issues that should be familiar to sociological criminologists: racial disparities in both the administration of justice and in the perceived legitimacy of this system; the further erosion of the adult and juvenile justice systems; the racialized history of american vigilantism; and, the common place of violence in the lives of young men. nevertheless, these issues and conditions are present in many cases in many courtrooms in many jurisdictions. in my opinion, some stories that never registered on the national radar have simpler heroes and villains, with miscarriages of justice that are arguably more egregious than those in jena. why do you think the particular series of events in jena have given rise to such a large mobilization?


At 7:58 AM, Blogger S.S.Stone said...

Listening to the news on this I don't think the punishment fits the's awful to think this is happening today...the reason for public outcry...small town America with notable segragation...I found it sad when one news reporter stated that the most "segragated" day of the week was on Sunday in Jena, when the whites were in their church and the blacks in theirs...

At 10:35 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

s.s., maybe i'm jaded after studying the u.s. justice system for 25 years, but the general contours of the jena case are depressingly, disturbingly familiar to people who study what i study. i can't just blame the south, since i've heard the same story in brooklyn, seattle, minneapolis, cedar rapids, and madison. part of me thinks the only reason we ever heard anything about this case was because mychal bell was a star running back for the jena giants. unless a kid has been tagged as having a "future," few will rise to his defense. dang. that might be the most cynical thing i've written on this blog. i truly hope i'm wrong.

At 12:37 AM, Blogger S.S.Stone said...

For some of us unfamiliar as you are with the US justice system this story was big news, sad news. There's always a hidden agenda somewhere I suppose.


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