The Jena 6 are Free!


(An update of this story can be found here.)

The Jena 6 and Justin Barker are now free to move ahead with their lives.  The terms of the plea agreement were revealed in the course of a two-hour court hearing at the LaSalle Parish courthouse.  Each of the five remaining defendants in this case pleaded “no contest” to the misdemeanor charge of simple battery.  Each will be placed on non-supervised probation for one week and must pay a $500 fine and in most cases an additional $500 in court costs.  In addition, a civil suit filed by the family of Justin Barker was settled when the Jena 6 defendants (including Mychal Bell) agreed to pay the Barker family an undisclosed settlement.  Attorneys are not allowed to reveal the details of the settlement but a reliable source has disclosed that the payment was approximately $24,000.

The picture above was taken on the LaSalle courthouse steps moments after the settlement brought a two-and-a-half year legal fight to a satisfying conclusion.  Pictured (left to right) are Corwin Jones, 20, Jesse Ray Beard, 18, Bryant Purvis (20), Robert Bailey (19) and Theo Shaw (20) and, in the second row, yours truly (56).  Judge Thomas Yeager was clearly impressed that all five of the defendants who appeared before him today are enrolled in college.  Two of them tell me they are considering law school.

P6264462I will explain how we got to this point in a later post, but the short answer is that we were able to recruit skilled and dedicated attorneys (some of whom are pictured to the left).  The legal fight never attracted much media coverage, but everyone familiar with the American criminal justice system knows it is virtually impossible to achieve a positive outcome in a morally and factually ambiguous case without highly trained legal professionals. 

The legal fight began in earnest when the Southern  Poverty Law Center agreed to secure the services of the best defense attorney in Louisiana–they did some checking and called up Jim Boren of Baton Rouge.  Jim’s involvement opened the door to pro bono talent from law firms in Chicago and New York City.  In addition, several regional attorneys lent their talents to the project. 


P6264463 David Utter and Jesse Ray Beard


Theo Shaw and Rob McDuff


Jim Boren and Una Dean (background) attorneys for Robert Bailey

I will have more to say about this historic settlement in the next few days.

21 thoughts on “The Jena 6 are Free!

  1. That is a good outcome, considering the earlier charges. How does the DA and the first judge feel about this? Any chance of getting some of these attys to take on the Curtis Flowers case?

  2. Great news Alan!! Glad to see closure… super excited about our future lawyers in the making. Everyone looks good!! Thanks for ALL of your hard work! I hope to cross paths again soon!

  3. Congratulations to Friends of Justince and all associated with the Jena 6 litigation. Had it not been for your intervention the lives of these young men would have been doomed.

  4. This is such wonderful news! The beaming faces say it all – the lawyers and the boys – what a beautiful sight to behold! Congratulations to all of them.
    To your comment, “it is virtually impossible to achieve a positive outcome in a morally and factually ambiguous case without highly trained legal professionals,” I would add, “with high ideals they are prepared to fight for.” These days such people are very scarce, even at a fee.
    One must be sure to include Justin Barker and his
    lawyers for being willing to work out a very fair and just deal. I am so happy for everybody!! I wish the boys a bright and successful future.

  5. Congratulations to the young men of the Jena 6. Continue to stay focus and excel in school and never look back. Let this experience be your driving force for a brighter future. I was there for the march and I will never forget it.
    The sky is the limit, reach for the stars to make your parents and all the marchers proud!

  6. Without Alan Bean and Friends of Justice, the world would have never known about the plight of the Jena 6 and the case would have ended quite differently. Alan was responsible for getting the national media to shine a light on the issues; for alerting the Southern Poverty Law Center to the case; and for getting Color of Change, the organization that raised funds for the defense, interested in Jena. Our collective hats are off to you, Alan, and to all of your colleagues.

  7. Congratulations to all those who have given of their time and energy and endure time away from family to do all the work to achieve this result. This is inspiring stuff for us all to know about. Alan can you take a rest now for a little while

  8. Well, finally justice has been done. Simple battery! That is what they should have been charged with in the first place. Now the racial climate of North Louisiana, actually the whole of Louisiana, but especially the north, needs to change. I hope the boys make it through college and law school. That would really shake up DeSoto parish—lawyers from the Jena 6.

  9. Congratulations. I am very happy to see a successful outcome for all these guys which includes Jena 6 and lawyers, etc. that helped.
    How much more time for all of us to celebrate a good outcome for Troy Davis? Without you, Allen, and your dedication, we would not have seen this day for Jena 6. Thank you.
    Frances Miller

  10. Praise the Lord for the detremined efforts of Alan Bean, Friends of Justice, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Color of Change and all of the righteous people who contributed money, time , organizing and communication efforts and prayers. May the young African-American men of the Jena 6 be further blessed and may they have long and fruitful lives.

    The election of President Obama is only a part of the beginning of the end of the legacy of American slavery, Apartied/Jim Crow, and white supremacism. Justice is growing, albeit slowly in the USA, but true frredom and equality will require constant vigilance and hard work by people of conscience, of all colors/ethnicities, if America is to ever realize her potential and really become a beacon of freedom, democracy and hope. God Bless the Jena 6, their families, commuunity, attorneys and supporters. Martin (Rev. Dr. King, Jr.) said “…we as a people will get to the PromisdLland…”. President Barack Obama said,” Yes we Can”. The good people who sup[ported the Jena 6 can now say, “Indeed we did”! Change is inevitable!!!

  11. Congratulations to the Jena 6 families and all who worked with and/or for them, on the ground in Jena, or on the buses to Jena, or out of their wallets and pocketbooks, or by the petitions they signed or by spreading the news by email or word of mouth.

    The Jena 6 movement showed that affected families, activists, lawyers and everyday folks can work together to turn impossible situations into victories.

    Families that stuck together grew from a small coalition with supporters, to tens of thousands of demonstrators to millions of informed and active people around the world. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, this was a victory.

    Now, let’s move on to the other Jena 6’s across the country, south AND north. (Remember what Malcolm X said: “When you’re south of the Canadian border, you’re South”).

    The Jena 6 cases were about racial profiling, prosecutorial overcharging, lack of public defenders, bias by a judge, and the school to prison pipeline.

    What’s going on in your area, and what can be done?

  12. I echo Richard’s thanks to Alan and Friends of Justice. Without your attention to the case none of this could have happened. I need to clarify, however, something in Alan’s comments. As he noted, many lawyers made up a talented team, making sure to both represent their clients vigorously and play their part as members of the “Jena 5.” Jim Boren would be the first to note that he is not the “best” lawyer in the state; after much discussion, we at SPLC decided he was the best person to represent Robert Bailey. As the results show, we were correct.

    So many amazing lawyers played critical roles at critical times. Jim Boren, Tom Lorenzi, and John DiGiulio all served the role as the esteemed Louisiana lawyers, well known in Louisiana’s trial and appellate courts as brilliant, skilled, highly professional criminal defense attorneys. After representing judges, politicians and business leaders for so many years, as well as leading the defense in other high profile criminal matters, the fact that they were on the pleadings, advocating for the Jena 6, sent a strong message that this case was going to be fought and fought hard. Jon King of DLA Piper used his outsider’s status and considerable trial skills to cross examine Judge Mauffray with the perfect mix of respect and incredulity, gently probing as Mauffray got deeper and deeper into his conflicting testimony. His colleague Stan Adelman brought both wise appellate experience and savvy trial skills. Eric Ha at Sidley Austin in Chicago and Rob McDuff, a solo practitioner in Jackson, Miss., wrote and edited both the trial and appellate briefs on the recusal motion; Rob’s perfect oral argument in the 3rd circuit slammed the door on the motion to recuse Judge Mauffray. Darrell Hickman and Clay Walker provided invaluable local knowledge and experience; Mike Nunnery, as one of the original lawyers on the case, was our constant voice of outrage, always professional but always reminding us why we were there and what we were fighting for. Alan Howard of Dewey LeBeuf in NYC provided both first rate legal advice and, by taking Jesse Ray Beard into his home last summer, literally saved his adolescence. Una Dean at Davis Polk led our effort to settle the civil case, truly leaving a clean slate our clients and their families for their future. There are many others whom I am certain I am neglecting to mention. The point is, as with any important case with a good result, it was a true team effort. One made possible due to the spotlight Alan Bean and Friends of Justice put on the case, and the financial assistance provided by SPLC and the powerful membership of ColorOfChange. It was an honor to be part of the effort. Thank you all!

    David Utter, Esq.
    Southern Poverty Law Center

  13. I am glad this has finally come to some sort of positive conclusion. It took way too long and way too much talent but justice prevailed and it is my hope and prayer that these men have a chance to go on and enjoy the simple pleasures of life considering all they’ve endured.

  14. Congratulations, to YOU Alan, for having withstood all the challenges to your being and your stamina over these past 2 .5 years, when you might have just said this is too overwhelming. You are a bright light in our human archipelago!

    I’m pretty choked up with joy over this decision and victory for these young men. FINALLY. I wish them all the very best in their lives.

    –From a white lady in Carolina who was there for the rally.

  15. That’s fantastic Alan! And to think, you only had the help of the uber-wealthy SPLC, several high powered law firms, and a media establishment bent on framing these incidents as a continuation of the 1960s civil rights struggle. Truly, this is David versus Goliath all over again.

    By the way, you did not mention any of the criminal activities that at least three of the young men have been charged with since the Jena Six incidents. But who needs to be bothered with such trivialities?

  16. Thanks to all who have commented above. And thank you, “V” for representing the other side of the issue. I will be making one more post on this story (likely after the weekend) before moving on to the next big story.


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