Theo Shaw was all smiles inside of Washington, D.C. courtroom as he was sworn into the bar association earlier this week.
Smiling inside a court of law is a far cry from Shaw’s high school days when he and five other black teenage boys were at the center of a national firestorm. They were charged with attempted murder after an attack of a white student.
The attempted murder charge carried a 50-year prison sentence, which many in Jena, Louisiana and the media associated with unfair judicial treatment due to race.
Shaw always maintained his innocence and spent seven-months jail because he couldn’t afford bail money. With the help of his lawyer, Rob McDuff, he negotiated a no-contest plea and later got the case expunged.
After receiving a full ride to the University of Washington to study law he eventually clerked for Justice Johnson of the Supreme Court and later became a lawyer. Shaw said his experience as a member of the Jena 6 undoubtedly played a role in his decision to become a lawyer.
“I think when you’ve been as close to the system as I’ve been, as far as being in jail, and being in jail all day talking with people, being there when people are crying — grown men, kids … I think it’s hard not to care when you’ve been as close as I’ve been,” he said.