Commentary on Jeff Deen interview
By Tom Johnson, January 12, 2010

Excerpt from interview with a lawyer who represented Judge Herman Thomas ("Lagniappe Talks With Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Deen," November 3, 2009):

L: You asked the former Murphy High School principal his thoughts on corporal punishment? You guys seemed to all-but-admit Thomas spanked these guys. Do you think the jury thought these guys were criminals and they needed their butts whipped?

JD: I think if you sat through the trial you saw these guys resisted any type of authority or structure and were resistant to any type of discipline. Some of them never had any discipline at all or even knew what that was. I thought it was interesting that more than half of them were saying it made them feel like “less of a man.” And I thought that was very interesting that they all used the same phrase. Because where would that come from? They were either rehearsing it or they had some street machismo, which that’s not what I was taught that a man does. He doesn’t stand on the street corner and sell drugs or go kill people or rob people and not work and not support his children. That doesn’t sound like somebody who is a man. Sounds like someone who has to put away his childish things and become a man and maybe he should be treated like a child.

. . .

JD: I want to go back to the race stuff you asked me about. You asked me if Tyson was racially motivated?

L: Well, after the verdict, there were certainly a few people outside the courtroom saying he was a racist.

JD: I don’t think Tyson is racist in the sense of hatred of black people or that kind of stuff. I do think that the different cultures have developed different ideas of how things should be done. And I think sometimes one culture finds it hard to find a way to understand why the other culture does something.


I don't suppose the school principal whose opinion of paddling was sought was asked if he approves of the bare-butt treatment, which was alleged to be Thomas' M.O.

Deen's spin on the "less of a man" feeling expressed by some of Thomas' victims was that getting this punishment so associated with childhood seemed to compromise their standing as adults. I think it was rather a more polite way of lamenting that the judge had "made them his bitches," as it were. Haven't prison rape victims likewise described their experience in terms of lost manhood?

In any case, it is galling that this lawyer basically tries to paint Thomas' behavior as a "black thing" illustrating the need to respect cultural differences. I cannot imagine that such degrading treatment of African-American prisoners would have sat well with Martin Luther King, Jr. (who incidentally is remembered as a non-spanking parent by at least one of his children).

It goes without saying, I guess, that Deen has little interest in knowing what degree of butt-whipping these men were actually subjected to growing up. If it was a lot, then apparently it was ineffective or even backfired.


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