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Debunking Misinformation About The “Jena 6”

Here is a very handy exegesis of the vastly overblown and preposterously mis-reported “Jena 6” case from the local Louisiana paper, The Town Talk:

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the “Jena Six.”

Who are the “Jena Six?”

The six black Jena High School students charged in connection to the beating of a white student have been referred to as the “Jena Six” ever since a June rally at LaSalle Parish Courthouse where supporters were chanting “Free the Jena Six.”

Jesse Ray Beard, Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw were all originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit the same, according to LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters. Those charges came after Justin Barker was hit and then repeatedly kicked by a group of students at the high school on Dec. 4.

All of the students, but Beard who was 14 at the time, were charged as adults. Bell, who was 16 at the time of the incident, was convicted as an adult in June of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit that crime. Walters reduced his charges just before the trial.

Since then, both of those convictions have been vacated and tossed back to juvenile court.

Charges against Bailey, Jones and Shaw have been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery. Details about Beard’s case are unknown as it is being handled in juvenile court, though he is back at Jena High and participating in athletics.

Was it really an all-white jury that convicted Bell?

Yes. There were 150 people summoned for jury duty, although only about 50 appeared. That ratio is normal for LaSalle Parish, court officials said. In those 50 who appeared, none were black. There was no effort to find the nearly 100 who didn’t appear, both black and white. That too, is common in LaSalle Parish. Punishment for dodging jury duty is at the discretion of the judge.

Community members have squabbled over how many minorities appeared on the list of 150 potential jurors with numbers ranging from four to more than 20. There is no entry in the juror database for race to ensure that bias isn’t used in jury selection, a court official said.

June 27, 2007: All white jury selected for first ‘Jena Six’ trial

June 28, 2007: Jury may get case today

June 29, 2007: ‘Jena Six’ defendant faces years in jail

June 30, 2007: Crowd of 30 says conviction was a ‘miscarriage of justice’

Why were some of the boys charged as juveniles and others as adults?

According to Louisiana’s Children Code, if someone is 15 or over — Bell was 16 at the time of the incident and Beard was 14 — and they are charged with one of a list of specific charges — including attempted murder — they must be tried in the adult justice system. If a defendant is under the age of 15, he can’t be charged as an adult. This decision isn’t one resting in the hands of the judge or district attorney, but is clearly spelled out in law.

The point of contention though in this case was when the charges were reduced from a crime that a child can be charged as an adult -– like attempted murder — to a crime that a child can’t be charged as an adult –- aggravated battery.

Bell’s lawyers argued that the adult court no longer had jurisdiction, while Walters contended that according to law he did.

On Sept. 4, 28th Judicial District Court Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr. agreed with Bell’s attorneys when they said Mauffray never had jurisdiction over the conspiracy charge and threw out that conviction. But he contended that he retained jurisdiction of the battery charge. The appeals court didn’t agree.

The 3rd Circuit ruled on Sept. 14 that the “trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion” to vacate the adult battery conviction. The three-judge panel ruled that “jurisdiction remains exclusively in juvenile court” for that charge.

In a statement made Sept. 14 following the appeals court’s decision, LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said that after reviewing the ruling, “I will ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the decision of the court of appeals.”

Bell had a juvenile hearing Sept. 10 regarding the conspiracy charge, but those details are confidential. A juvenile hearing on the battery charge is pending appeals.

December 16, 2006: Teen in Jena fight charged as adult

August 15, 2007: Bell’s attorneys file motion to void his conviction

August 16, 2007: Defense attorney says Bell case should be in juvenile system

Were there really nooses found in connection to this case?

Two nooses were found hanging from a tree at Jena High after a black student asked in a “jocular fashion,” according to U.S. Attorney Donald Washington, if the black students could sit under the tree where white students sat. It was discovered who were the three students who placed the nooses, and the school principal recommended expulsion for the students. A committee of the LaSalle Parish School Board overruled the decision, and the students were suspended. Details of the suspension aren’t a public record. Washington said in none of the statements of the accused or the witnesses from the Dec. 4 incident included anything about the nooses. The “Jena Six” supporters and family contend that the noose incident is what precipitated the Dec. 4 incident.

September 6, 2006: Jena High noose incident triggers parental protests

September 9, 2006: Jena students suspended, not expelled, over incident

September 12, 2006: LaSalle board skips over noose incident

September 19, 2006: LaSalle Board hears Jena High incident complaint

Who was the victim? What happened to him?

Justin Barker was a student at Jena High. He was knocked unconscious and suffered several injuries to his face during the attack. Barker was transported by ambulance to a local hospital where he was treated for three hours. That evening he attended a ring ceremony at the high school.

Just a few days before the end of the school year, months after the Dec. 4 incident, Barker was expelled after a hunting gun was found in his car on the school grounds. He was charged as an adult for possessing a firearm in a firearm-free zone. His expulsion carried through to this school year.

May 11, 2007: Jena victim allegedly brought gun on campus

May 12, 2007: Student may be expelled for a year

Was he involved in any of the previous incidents?

Barker wasn’t one of the three students disciplined for the noose incident, and he hasn’t been named in any of the fights in Jena leading up to the Dec. 4 incident.

Was the arson at Jena High School connected to the nooses or other incidents?

Police have no leads in the investigation into the November arson that destroyed the main building of the school.

December 1, 2006: Investigators say arson is to blame

December 3, 2006: No arrests in Jena fire Saturday

December 5, 2006: Jena High School reopens 4 days after arson blaze

December 5, 2006: LaSalle board declares state of emergency after Jena fire

Do any of the “Jena Six” defendants have a criminal past?

Bell has been adjudicated of four previous crimes of violence -– two for battery and two for criminal damage to property. He was placed on probation until his 18th birthday -– Jan. 18, 2008. Juvenile records are normally sealed, but Bell’s juvenile record was discussed during a hearing to set bond after his June adult felony conviction. If any of the other students have previous convictions, it hasn’t yet been made public.

August 25, 2007: Bell denied bond due to criminal history

Major kudos to The Town Talk for such an excellent laying out of the facts, together with actual documentation.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, September 23rd, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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