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Theo Shaw, One of the Jena 6 Defendants, Has Officially Been Sworn in as a Lawyer


You may remember Theo Shaw as one of the six Black teenage boys whose lives were thrown into the spotlight in 2006 when their c*ourt case, known as the “Jena 6,” made media headlines.

Inspired by that experience to help fix the c*riminal justice system, Shaw later went on to study law at the University of Washington on a full scholarship.


After completing a clerkship with Louisiana Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, Shaw was recently sworn in to the bar of the District of Columbia on Friday.

“Being wrongly a*rrested and i*ncarcerated as a teenager motivated me to become a lawyer,” he tells Because of Them We Can. “After being caged for nearly seven months, I left that j*ail with a c*onviction in my heart to stand and f*ight with all people at risk of losing their freedom.”

In 2006, Shaw, along with five other young Black men, were ch*arged with a*ttempted m*urder after getting into a f*ight with a young white man at their high school in Jena, Louisiana. Their case made national news as thousands of supporters took to the streets to p*rotest their a*rrest. According to a 2006 New York Times article, the fight between the young Black men and their white peer was preceded by a series of r*acially ch*arged i*ncidents at the school that included the h*anging of a noose from the branch of a tree.

Shaw, who was 17 at the time, maintained his i*nnocence while spending seven months in j*ail as he awaited t*rial. Thanks to the national spotlight of the case, which led to many prominent leaders getting involved, Shaw’s attempted m*urder ch*arge was lowered to a m*isdemeanor simple b*attery ch*arge, reports The Root.


The teen then pleaded no contest to the m*isdemeanor, and after receiving additional help from attorneys, was able to have his record expunged.

Shaw, who is eager to move forward in his career, explains, “I am excited to be a lawyer in part to join the heroic efforts of those who push against a c*riminal justice system that too often d*ehumanizes Black and brown people and the poor. For those who share my c*onviction, I say, let’s get to work!”

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