JENA, La. (AP) — Prosecutors on Tuesday reduced the attempted murder charges against two more teenagers among the “Jena Six,” a group of black high school students who were arrested following an attack on a white schoolmate.
Five of the teens were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, carrying sentences of up to 80 years in prison. The sixth faces undisclosed juvenile charges.
Civil rights advocates have decried the charges as unfairly harsh.
On Tuesday, charges against Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. That same reduction was made earlier for Mychal Bell, who was tried and found guilty and could be sentenced to 22 1/2 years at a hearing Sept. 20.
Also awaiting trial are Robert Bailey Jr. and Bryant Purvis, who still face attempted murder charges, and the unidentified juvenile. The attack on Justin Barker, 18, came amid tense race relations in Jena, a mostly white town of 3,000 in north-central Louisiana where racial tensions have grown since incidents that started last school year at Jena High. After a black student sat under a tree on the school campus where white students traditionally congregated, three nooses were hung in the tree.
Students accused of placing the nooses were suspended from school for a short period. The six black students were accused of beating and kicking Barker on Dec. 4. A motive for the attack was never established. Barker was treated at a hospital emergency room and released after about three hours.
Shaw’s attorney, George Tucker, said Tuesday that he still doesn’t believe his client will get a fair trial in Jena. Shaw himself has dreams of attending Grambling State University. “Just drop all the charges and let us go on with our lives,” the teenager told CNN Tuesday.