AP story on Jena

This AP story on Jena has been picked up coast to coast, including leading Texas papers like the Houston Chronicle.

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June 26, 2007, 7:01PM
Charges reduced for student in La. fight

Five women and a man are set to hear opening arguments Wednesday in the trial of 17-year-old Mychale Bell in LaSalle Parish, where the black population is only about 12 percent.

“I’m sure I can get a fair trial,” said Blane Williams, Bell’s defense lawyer. “You can’t tell me there aren’t six people in this town who won’t listen fairly and do the right thing. I think people have a tendency to do the right thing.”

Bell and four other black students faced up to 80 years if convicted of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the December beating, which occurred several months after three white students were suspended for hanging nooses from a schoolyard tree.

But the district attorney Monday reduced Bell’s charges to aggravated second-degree battery, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years, and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery, which carries a maximum sentence of 7 1/2 years.

“Well, anything is better than murder and a lifetime in prison,” said John Jenkins, whose son, Carwin Jones, is among the charged. “But it’s still strange. All of a sudden they’re talking about a weapon. What weapon? We never heard anything about a weapon before.”

Aggravated second-degree battery involves use of a dangerous weapon, according to state statutes. Parents of the accused say they had heard no previous mention of a weapon.

But attorneys on both sides, during questioning of jurors, indicated prosecutors will try to say that something not usually thought of as a weapon — such as a ring or an ink pen — could be considered a dangerous weapon during a fight.

There was no word whether the charges would be reduced for the other defendants, who will be tried later. Prosecutors refused to discuss the case.

The five defendants and a juvenile, whose identity and charges were not released because of his age, were dubbed the “Jena Six” by supporters who say the attempted murder charges resulted from racism by authorities and were out of proportion to the seriousness of the alleged crime.

The racial tension began in August in Jena — a town of 2,900 with about 350 black residents — after a black student sat under a tree traditionally used as a gathering spot by white students. The next month, three nooses were hanging in the tree when students arrived on campus.

“You didn’t see the district attorney rush out to school to do anything about those nooses in the tree,” said Caseptla Bailey, whose son, Robert Bailey Jr., also was charged in the beating. “You don’t see white kids who beat up black kids charged with attempted murder.

“There’s nothing fair going on here.”

The school’s principal recommended the students who hung the nooses be expelled, but they served brief suspensions instead.

On Dec. 4, Justin Barker, who is white, was attacked at school by a small group of black students. He was treated at a hospital.

“I saw him that night at school for the ring ceremony,” Jenkins said. “I could tell he had been beat up, his face was bruised, but he was out and about, so he couldn’t have been too bad.”

David Barker, Justin’s father, declined comment Tuesday during a break in the trial. “There are two sides to every story. There are two sides to this one. But I just don’t want to talk about our side now,” he said.

Theodore Shaw also had been scheduled to go to trial this week, but his case was delayed. Trial dates for the others — Bryant Purvis, Bailey, Jones and the unidentified juvenile — have not been set. Shaw and Bell have been held since their arrests, unable to post $90,000 bond.

4 thoughts on “AP story on Jena

  1. The shame about all this is that all the rich, powerful African people in this country remain silent when injustices like these continue. People like Oprah and such who can afford proper attorneys should come to these kids aid. They however are afraid of their white masters. The defense attorney in the case who more than likely is klan said he doesn’t need to change cities which is nonsense. The DA reportedly went to the high school and threatened to end the African “kids lives with a stroke of his pen”. He didn’t say anything about the devils who hung the nooses and pulled out shotguns on the African kids. Personally, I’m at the end when it comes to race relations in this country and for that matter in the world. These devils are two-legged dogs who conduct themselves the same way their lying, stealing, raping, murdering fathers and grandfathers have done all along. Until we stop this marching and singing and say enough is enough and that you will no longer beat us, imprison us, and kill us without a fight, the cycle will continue. Quite frankly, I have come to the realization that eventually I will kill at least one of these animals before I leave this planet. AT LEAST ONE!! Let’s keep in mind that we are God’s people and he is in us and only us. Our beautiful dark, black, melanin rich skin is a direct gift from God. The reason the sun feeds us and nourishes our bodies but on the other hand kills them if they go out into it without putting on sun block or a shield is a perfect example. Their trash organs can never work in our Godly bodies but on the flip side, we can breathe life into their weak organs using ours. Deseases that kill them has no effect on us. I’m from Africa and has had malaria no less than eight times and I’m still here. If they get malaria, their weak, trash bodies die. Brothers and Sisters we need to understand that we must stand up for ourselves against these creatures and begin to speak their language of violence. Don’t be fooled by their smiles. Behind those white, yellow, green and brown teeth lies a vicious, uncivilized beast who God himself said he would come for even down to their third and fourth generations. LONG LIVE AFRICA AND THE AFRICAN PEOPLE. BLACK AND BROWN POWER. PEACE AND LOVE!!!

  2. Mary Foster from Houston–You really need to either get your facts straight on this incident or stay in Houston and mind your own business. You wrote that in August a black student sat under a tree, actually he asked if he could sit under the tree and was told yes ( he should have just sat under the tree without asking, but he knew asking would start some trouble which is what he wanted.) Also, Mary Foster, you wrote that the next month, a noose was hung, actually it was the next day!!

  3. The first incident with the nooses should have handled by the principal with his recommendation of suspension. Of course, the black student who asked the question about sitting under the tree was just asking for trouble. Everyone knows the whites sit together and the blacks sit together. The school is public property. Why didn’t the blacks just go sit under the tree? Something took place during the fight. I do not have enough information for an opinion. District Attorneys are over zealous without knowing the facts and the law.

  4. I can’t believe the court is allowing an All-White jury to try the case. What ever happened to being tried by “A jury of your peers” ? Isn’t that the law? It’s sad to see that the black students probably won’t get a fair trial in this day and age. I hope for their sake, that they do.

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