A Texas appellate court has upheld the felony conviction of a black East Texas teenager who was freed in March amid heightened racial tensions in her small town.
Shaquanda Cotton release also came during a shakeup of the state’s troubled juvenile prison system.
The ruling by the Sixth Appellate District Court in Texarkana yesterday doesn’t immediately affect Cotton, who is now 16 and remains free. It does preserve the conviction on her record.
She was found guilty in March 2006 of shoving a teacher’s aide at Paris High School. She had sought to overturn her conviction on grounds that her defense lawyer was inadequate. She was 15 when a judge sentenced her to a state youth prison in Brownsville, where
she served one year.
Before her release, Cotton’s imprisonment won national media attention. She had no prior criminal record, and activists say the fact that the same judge sentenced a white 14-year-old girl to probation for arson signaled evidence of racial bias in Paris.
QUESTION: DO YOU THINK COTTON’S PUNISHMENT WAS TOO HARSH AND RACIALLY MOTIVATED?