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jena06.jpgJENA, La. — No media throng or thousands of supporters greeted Mychal Bell on Tuesday as he and his parents walked into the LaSalle Parish courthouse. Details of why Bell was in court were unavailable since his case now is being handled in juvenile court and is not open to public scrutiny.

“I can’t tell you about what just happened or what is next,” said Louis Scott, one of Bell’s attorneys, as he left the building. Bell was the first of six black students to be tried for an alleged attack on Justin Barker, a white classmate at Jena High School. His case and those of the other defendants — now known as the “Jena Six” — have prompted comparisons to the struggles of people like Rosa Parks.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize a massive protest in the small central Louisiana town after news of the charges spread, has called the demonstration the beginning of the 21st-century civil rights movement. Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other critics accused District Attorney Reed Walters, who is white, of prosecuting blacks more harshly than whites. They note that he did not file charges against three white teens suspended from the high school over allegations they hung nooses in a tree on campus not long before fights between blacks and whites, including the attack on Barker.

Since the rush of activity leading up to Bell’s publicized release last week, things have “finally quieted down,” Bell’s family has said. The number of reporters stopping by each day has waned. The phone calls have begun to lessen. Bell was given an ankle monitoring device before his release Thursday for the home confinement that is part of the terms of his release, Scott said.

Although Scott wouldn’t comment about Tuesday’s hearing, he did confirm that the “restrictions” on Bell’s release would not change for the time being. The hearing, which started around 9:30 a.m., lasted more than four hours. Bell was accompanied by his parents — Marcus Jones and Melissa Bell — and his attorneys. Also on hand were Barker and his parents — David and Kelli Barker.

Bell and the other five defendants have been charged in connection with the Dec. 4 attack on Barker that left him unconscious and bleeding with facial injuries. According to court testimony, he was repeatedly kicked by a group of students at the high school. Barker was treated for three hours at a local emergency room and was able to attend a school function that evening, authorities have said.

Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw were all initially charged — as adults — with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit the same. A sixth defendant was charged in the case as a juvenile. Bell, who was 16 at the time of the incident, was convicted in June of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit that crime. Walters reduced the charges just before the trial. Since then, both of those convictions were dismissed and tossed back to juvenile court, where they now are being tried.

Charges against Bailey, 18, Jones, 19, and Shaw, 18, have been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery. Purvis, 18, has not yet been arraigned. Details about the juvenile’s case, like Bell’s, are unknown as it is being handled in juvenile court, though he has returned to school and is participating in athletics. Bailey, Jones, Purvis and Shaw must face their charges in adult court, as they were all 17 or 18 at the time of the incident.

Last week, state District Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr. set Bell’s bond at $45,000, and Bell was released after spending more than 10 months behind bars. He was greeted by close to 50 family members and friends, Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, Bishop T.D. Jakes and more than 100 members of the media.

Source: Houston Chronicle

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  • Blair

    Following the Jena High School beating incident, the Justice Department reopened its investigation into the noose-hanging incident and found no link to the assault on Justin Barker or other confrontations between black and white students. Donald Washington, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, told CNN that “A lot of things happened between the noose hanging and the fight occurring, and we have arrived at the conclusion that the fight itself had no connection.” He added that “We could not prove that, because the statements of the students themselves do not make any mention of nooses, of trees, of the ‘N’ word or any other word of racial hate.”

    There is no connection between the nooses and the attack on Barker. According to witness statements, the black students were angry because they overhead Barker talking about a fight at a private party that involved Robert Bailey, a member of the Jena Six. Police arrested Justin Sloan, a white 22-year-old male, in connection with the fight and charged him with simple battery. He pled guilty and was place on parole. Police have refuted allegations that the white male hit Bailey with a bottle, and in his statement to police Bailey merely alleged that Sloan hit him, he doesn’t mention being hit with a bottle. The simple battery charge was appropriate because Sloan did not use a weapon and no serious injuries were inflicted. Virtually everyone convicted of simple battery, regardless of race, are placed on parole provided it’s a first offense. Mychal Bell, for example, was on parole at the time of the beating incident at Jena High School.

    The charge of attempted murder was dropped before Mychal Bell went to trail and should no longer be part of the controversy over whether the Jena Six have been inappropriately charged. They are charged with aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. One of three circumstances or a combination of three circumstances elevates simple battery to aggravated battery: (1) a deadly weapon was used, (2) sever injuries were inflicted, or (3) the victim was vulnerable (helpless or defenseless). Four of the Jena six were over 17 at the time of the beating incidence. Trying them in juvenile court is not an option; by law they must be tried as adults. The argument that shoes constitute deadly weapons has legal precedence. Courts have ruled that shoes constitute deadly weapons in cases where victims were kicked to death. However, the prosecution will not have to convince the jury that shoes qualify as deadly weapons to prove aggravated assault.

    The prosecution will argue that Barker was seriously injured. An ambulance had to be called to the scene and doctors treated him for three hours. The prosecution will call the doctors to the witness stand. Beside cuts and bruise, he suffered a concussion. Concussions are serious life-threatening injuries that often have lingering and sometimes permanent effects. Barker’s parents will likely to testify that doctors recommend Barker stay in the hospital overnight, but that they had no insurance and could not afford the costs. Barker’s attorneys estimate his medical costs at $14,000. Jurors may consider that these costs are indications of serious injuries. Barker did attend a senior right ceremony after his release from the hospital, but his friends, if called to testify, will says that he left before the end of the ceremony because he was in pain and felt dizzy.

    However, the prosecution does not have to prove that Barker suffered serious injuries to prove their case. In sworn police statements, nearly a dozen witnesses stated that the Jenna Six continue to kick Barker in the head after he lay unconscious (helpless and defenseless) on the ground. In a sworn statement to the Sheriff’s office, one student wrote, “Me and J.O. was walking out of the gym when all of a sudden a tall black boy come running from the side and jumped Justin Barker and slammed his head on the concrete beam that people sometimes sit on. Theo Shaw and a group of other blacks were all standing there waiting on Justin and after he was knocked out cold on the ground Calvin Jones and Robert Bailey started kicking his head for no reason at all. Me and J.O. looked over and there was blood pouring out of his ears and his hands were shaking because he was knocked out cold, then Mrs. ______ made us go to class.”

    Due to the Jena Six protest, a judge might allow the defense to claim the beating was tied to the noose hanging incident, but the prosecution will be able to use the Justice Department report to argue that there is no such connection.

    The Jena prosecutor says he did not prosecute the three teens who hung the nooses because Louisiana has no applicable hate crime laws. For the same reason, he had not filed hate crimes charges against the Jena Six, although there is plenty of evidence the attack on Barker was racially motivated and that members of the Jena six used racial slurs. In a sworn statement, one student wrote that just prior to the attack, “I heard one of the boys say, “There’s that white mother f—er that was running his mouth.” In their written statements, other students said that members of the Jena Six had threatened and bullied other white students just prior to the attack and that members of the Jena Six told them they had a list of white students they plan to attack.

    The justice Department has investigated the three white students who hung the nooses to determine if federal hate crime charges were justified. Following the beating at Jena High, the Justice Department reopened its investigation to determine, among other thing, if Justin Barker taunted the Jena Six with racial slurs. Now that the Justice Department has investigated the victim of the Jena High School beating, it should investigate the perpetrators to determine if federal hate crimes should be brought against the Jena Six.

    The police documents and witness statements related to the Jena Six events are posted at http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com/http. Anyone reading the witness statements will understand why Bell’s defense lawyer called no witnesses. If Bell’s defense lawyer had called character witness, he probably would have been disbarred for incompetence. Calling character witnesses would have allowed the prosecutor to reveal Bell’s criminal record and call victims of his previous assaults to the stand.