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Student Gets Life in Prison after Harvard University Murder

by on April 25, 2011

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by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black WorldScholarship in Action 

When most of us think about Ivy League universities, we picture places of higher learning, tranquility and inspirational endeavors. Most of us don’t think about students getting shot over bags of marijuana. But it still stands that Jabrai Jordan Copney is going to prison for a murder that took place on the Harvard University campus.

The murder occurred in 2009 and Copney has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The jury took three days to come to its conclusions, and sentenced the 22-year old Copney to spend the rest of his life in prison. He was also convicted of possession of a firearm, but not of armed robbery.

“They took their time and they came to the right decision based on the evidence,” said Assistant District Attorney Daniel J. Bennett.

According to prosecutors, Copney, Jason Aquino and Blayn Jiggetts convinced Justin Cosby to go with them into the basement of the Kirkland House. According to prosecutors, the plan of the assailants was to steal marijuana from Cosby at gunpoint. When Cosby refused to give up the marijuana, he was shot by Copney. Aquino and Jiggetts received plea deals and got 18 to 20 and 9 to 12 years, respectively, for their roles in the crime.

“Each day I get up, I ache with loneliness and sadness for the loss of my son,” said Denise Cosby, the mother of the murder victim.

“I hope you think about what you did to Justin each and every day for the rest of your life, as I do,” she said. “You’re despicable. You’re the scum of the earth. … May the rest of your life be a continuous hell on earth.”

Harvard University student Brittany J. Smith may also go to trial for being involved in the murder. Smith, Copney’s girlfriend, allegedly hid the gun that Copney used to commit the murder. She’s been charged with accessory, along with other counts.

I didn’t know much about the case of Jabrai Copney, but I’d already heard about the case of Brittany Smith. Her situation reminds me of the case of Afrika Owes, the young Ivy League bound student who may go to prison after helping her boyfriend in his drug ring. The cases are interesting because in both situations, we are reminded of the toxic relationships that many of our most promising young people keep as they try to find a way to success.

The bottom line is that making good decisions is often not enough for our children. Instead, they must understand the importance of managing their relationships. While one might feel tempted to believe that Afrika and Brittany were mere victims of unfortunate circumstances, the truth is that there are quite a few young women who find “bad boy” thugs to be appealing, and choose to date these men over black men who are choosing to live productive lives. Possibly influenced by self-destructive imagery in hip-hop, the decisions by these young women to be with these men are as problematic as the men’s decisions to engage in criminal activity.

Our children must be often reminded to make good choices, even if they go to school at Harvard. It’s sad to write about wasted lives on a regular basis, for the potential of these young people had once been limitless.

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