Category Archives: Jena Six
Been a while since we had any news on the Jena 6 folks..From FindLaw:
‘Jena 6’ Teen Pleads Guilty to Battery
MARY FOSTER Associated Press Writer
(AP) – JENA, La.-A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate led to one of the largest civil rights protests in years pleaded guilty Monday to a battery charge.
Mychal Bell, 17, originally was charged as an adult with attempted murder in the beating of Justin Barker in December 2006. That charge was reduced before a jury convicted him in June of aggravated second-degree battery. An appeals court threw that verdict out in September and ordered Bell retried as a juvenile.
Under his deal, Bell pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery in return for an 18-month sentence, with credit for 10 months he already has served. Bell had faced being placed in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday.
Although he has about eight months left to serve for the beating of Barker, Bell is currently serving a separate 18-month sentence for previous unrelated juvenile charges. He has about 16 months left on that sentence, which will run at the same time as the sentence in the Barker case.
Bell also must pay court costs plus $935 to Barker’s family, testify should his co-defendants in the Barker attack stand trial, undergo counseling and be reintegrated into the school system, his lawyers said.
“We were prepared to go forward with the trial, but you have to do what’s best for the client,” said Carol Powell Lexing, one of Bell’s attorneys. A juvenile court trial was to begin later this week.
The charges against Bell and five other black students, who became known as the “Jena Six,” led to a civil-rights demonstration in Jena in September. Felony charges against the other students are pending.
LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said he was pleased with the deal “because Mr. Barker is beginning to get the restitution and compensation he’s due.”
Walters said he would try to work out plea deals with the other teens charged in Barker’s beating. He said his decision to work out a deal was not influenced by the intense media coverage and civil rights demonstrations.
Barker spent several hours in the emergency room after the attack but was discharged and attended a school event the night after the attack, which occurred about a year ago.
Critics said prosecutors have treated blacks more harshly than whites in LaSalle Parish, pointing to an incident three months before the attack on Barker in which three white teens were accused of hanging nooses from a tree at the high school. The three were suspended from school but never criminally charged.
Walters has said there was no state crime to charge them with.
Jena, population roughly 3000, isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s historically accurate for the Deep South to exhibit this type of racism; after all, they have been doing it for over 200 years. 12% of the population, or 310 individuals are African American in Jena. Jena is also the site of the infamous Juvenile Correctional Center for Youth that was forced to close its doors in 2000, only two years after opening, due to widespread brutality and racism including the choking of juveniles by guards after the youth met with a lawyer. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the private prison amid complaints that guards paid inmates to fight each other and laughed when teens tried to commit suicide.
What bothers me is the state and federal court systems above the local level will be reviewing all these cases if the Jena D.A. doesn’t get his head out of his ass and reduce the charges and move on. George Bush has stacked the living bejesus out of the federal courts. But the southern ‘gentleman’ that occupies the D.A. office in Jena, Reed Walters, is nothing if not stubborn. He told the black students–I can change your life with the stroke of my pen.
The whole lot of ‘em are uppidity white men. A patriarchy don’t you know? Should we be shocked that an entire city, regardless of size, still practices racism?
No, but we should be outraged. We need to look them straight in the eye and tell them they are horrible people..the court system has to do that as well. We can not change the hearts and minds of those stalwart practitioners of racism..but we can stand in their streets and call them what they are; racist bastards. After all was said and done, a white resident of Jena was quoted as saying to the press;
That this story was publicized in Europe before our own traditional media addressed it is another rub. The European press jumped on this issue 9 months before the U.S. media did.
Yesterday, America gave the white residents of Jena something to think about. Thousands of American’s of all colors descended upon Jena to tell them to their faces what a bunch of racists they are, and that it’s no longer acceptable to judge people by the color of their skin. It’s also not acceptable to load the prisons with individuals of color. That sadly, is another symptom of the disease my dear reader. From a Nation.com article on the Jena 6:
“There are several issues in this case,” says Bob Noel, one of five attorneys who signed on as Bell’s new counsel after the trial. “One of the biggest is disproportionate treatment. People may think of a similarly situated kid, maybe middle-class, maybe white, and they think, Oh, let’s give him another chance. When he’s poor and black, it’s not necessarily the case. Another is funding for indigent defense: If there’s no money to adequately pay lawyers, to have support staff for them and resources they can use, they’re always at a major disadvantage. And the other is the issue of race in America.” “Throughout the summer, as the media glare intensified and a muscular team of attorneys assembled on the side of the defendants, Judge J.P. Mauffray and Walters dug in their heels. James Rucker, who sat in on some of Bell’s motion hearings during the appeal, was shocked to see the LaSalle Parish brand of justice at work. “You’d watch this judge grill the defense attorney. It felt like he was trying to trick him,” Rucker says. “And then he would set up the DA, so that all he had to do was say yes to a question. It was like they were a team.”
The sunlight of truth must stay bright in Jena and all other places in our country where brown and black people are trampled on because of the color of their skin. We must force the judicial appeals system to do the job the local DA refused to do, that of fairness and the rule of law imposed equally. Because if we don’t, lead counsel Louis Scott’s word’s might horribly ring true as he recalls the Little Rock 9:
“Immediately after the facts were explained, I can remember thinking, Wow, this is a 1957 case that jumped into 2007,” he says. “This is my second reaction, that the tree symbolized America. And the question was, Can all Americans share the shade of the system that we operate under? But the next thing that happened was the most frightening thing of all: They cut the tree down. I was hoping that didn’t symbolize the attitude of America, that before we allow some Americans to share the same rights, the same privileges and the same responsibilities, we’ll just get rid of the whole thing. It seemed to me that that was the message to be conveyed.” If Americans allowed this to occur, Scott believes, “that would be the first step toward unraveling the civil rights gains of the last fifty years.”
District Attorney Reed Walters is a bigot and Judge J.P. Mauffray is one as well..or at the very least he enables Walters to practice his bigotry in a court of law. We need to address the disparity of blacks and browns in prisons here in the U.S. To use numbers from a DoJ report in 2003;
About 10.4% of the entire African-American male population in the United States aged 25 to 29 was incarcerated, by far the largest racial or ethnic group—by comparison, 2.4% of Hispanic men and 1.2% of white men in that same age group were incarcerated. According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute in 2002, the number of black men in prison has grown to five times the rate it was twenty years ago. Today, more African-American men are in jail than in college. In 2000 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college. In 1980, there were 143,000 black men in prison and 463,700 enrolled in college.
We must keep up the pressure for justice in these cases by keeping these issues at the forefront. We can’t afford not to. The disease of racism must be wiped out if we are to succeed as a nation.
A town of 3000 people is currently hosting thousands of protestors. The count varies but at least 10,000 people are believed to be marching through Jena, LA today. A 3rd Circuit Court Judge has just announced that a bail bond hearing MUST be held for Mychal Bell within the next 72 hours. The web is rife with stories of todays march in mostly-white Jena. From an ABC news article:
Thousands of protesters have descended on the small town of Jena, La., for a large-scale rally in support of six black students charged in the beating of a white classmate. They are outraged at what they say is an excessive prosecution of the teens. The district attorney initially had tried to prosecute the students on attempted murder charges. Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, was there and said the scene was reminiscent of civil rights struggles of the 1960s.
Its a good friday indeed, from CNN:
A Louisiana appeals court Friday vacated the remaining conviction of a teenager accused in a violent, racially charged incident in Jena, Louisiana, his attorney said. Bob Noel said the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Lake Charles threw out the conviction for second degree battery against Mychal Bell, saying the charges should have been brought in juvenile court. The future of the case against Bell is up to the district attorney, who must decide whether to refile the charges in juvenile court, Noel said. Bell, who is now 17, was 16 at the time of the fight in December 2006. Earlier this month, a district court judge vacated a conviction for conspiracy to commit second degree battery, saying that charge should have been brought in juvenile court. He left standing the second degree battery conviction, however. Bell’s defense team would be filing a motion to get him out of prison, where he has been since his arrest in December, Noel said. A sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for September 20 is now off, he said.
Main Entry: rac·ism
Pronunciation: ‘rA-“si-z&m also -“shi-
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination
People need to stand up and speak out. If your not familiar with the Jena Six..read on. If you are familiar with them, you need to blog about it. Decent, good people do not sit by and allow racism to exist and flourish in America..to do so makes us all complicit.
Jena, Louisiana, where a young black teenager was convicted of aggravated assault for a schoolyard fight. The fight was initiated by white students, who hung three nooses in a tree at the high school courtyard, to warn black students not to sit there. After this hate crime was dismissed as a harmless prank by the school administration, black students protested under the tree. The local District Attorney was called in to warn the black students that he could take their life away with the stroke of a pen. After authority figures refused to take a stand against racism, the noose incident led to a series of fights between white and black students. After these fights, only the black students were charged–with attempted murder. The prosecutor and the town have refused to back down in prosecuting these young men, or to admit that hanging nooses is a hate crime. You can read the full report of Friends of Justice here: Jena 6 summary
CommonDreams has a good writeup here as well.
I must admit I had no idea about this situation in Louisiana. I am sickened by it. Thanks to AngryBlackBitch, I am no longer ignorant about the racism that is still accepted and in the case of the Jena Six..its supported by school administrators and the District Attorney in Jena LA.
Below is a ‘take action’ item from Friends of Justice. If you can’t be there, as I can’t..please blog about this..we can not let this happen without screaming our outrage loud and clear for all to hear.
On September 20th, 2007, the world is coming to Jena, Louisiana. While themainstream media waits for the next “news hook”, the plight of the Jena 6 has caught the attention of nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts.
Everyone has the same message: “Get on the bus!”
A rally is planned for the LaSalle Parish courthouse in Jena, beginning at 8:00 in the morning. If you want to be there, you better move fast–especially if you need overnight accommodations. I suggest you book a room in nearby Alexandria–Jena has only one motel, and the rooms probably disappeared a long time ago.
How many people are coming to Jena? A crowd of 1,000 appears to be a very conservative estimate. Most people who say they want to come will end up abandoning the idea for practical reasons. But the groundswell of enthusiasm has been so unprecedented that a crowd in excess of 5,000 is possible. Can tiny little Jena (population 3,000) handle that many people? It doesn’t appear that they have much choice in the matter.
Friends of Justice is trying to make sure that all the primary organizers in various cities are on the same page. So, if you are organizing a bus to Jena for the rally on the 20th please contact Friends of Justice and we’ll post your information. If you’ve got bus seats that need to be filled, let us know. We are currently being swamped with calls from across the nation asking, “Is there a bus going to Jena from my city?”
When I first visited the LaSalle Parish courthouse in early January, Friends of Justice was the only organization working with the Jena 6 and their families. Court appointed attorneys weren’t returning our calls. Motivated lawyers had been dismissed from the case and suitable replacements weren’t on the horizon. But as we listened to the families tell their stories I knew this legal outrage would not stand. I was determined that it would not stand, and I could already see a vast throng of concerned citizens gathered in front of the courthouse, standing in solidarity with the Jena Six.
So get on the bus and come on down to Jena, Louisiana. Come in peace and a spirit of non-violence. Come with an open mind. Come for the Jena Six and their families. Come for America.
Friends of Justice