The Jena Six and the History of Racially Compromised Justice in Louisiana
33 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2010
Date Written: 2009
This symposium contribution paper puts the story of the Jena Six, young African American men charged with attempted murder for a schoolyard fight, in the larger context of Louisiana legal history. It argues that Louisiana has historically discriminated against its African American citizens through vaguely drafted laws that could be applied with almost unlimited discretion. These included laws allowing registrars to deny voting registration to applicants who failed to satisfactorily interpret particular sections of the state or U.S. Constitution, and a vagrancy law, still on the books, allowing arrest of "Persons found in or near any structure, movable, vessel, or private grounds, without being able to account for their lawful presence therein." Given this history, unlimited prosecutorial discretion has predictable effects.
Keywords: Jena Six, Louisiana, Voting Rights, Equal Protection, Vagrancy
JEL Classification: K14, K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation