Justice After Jena

Justice comes late to the Jena Six, but at least it’s coming. Seventeen-year-old Mychal Bell was released from jail September 27, ten months after being locked up for attempted murder as a result of a six-on-one fight, one week after thousands of civil rights activists—led by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton—marched through town in protest, and one day after District Attorney Reed “White Law” Walters abandoned his effort to try Bell as an adult. Bell is now heading to juvenile court with an all-star team of attorneys at his side; the other five defendants are also awaiting trial.

The case of the Jena Six—in which noose-hangers, white-on-black aggression and an all-white jury were excused while black students’ sneakers were considered lethal weapons—has clearly been a “teachable moment for America,” as Hillary Clinton put it during a call to Sharpton’s radio show on September 18. It has awakened a new generation to serious racial disparities in the justice system and to the heavy toll young black men are paying in an era of mass imprisonment. Unfortunately, this newfound campaign may be a long one. In the days following the march, Justice Department officials declined to prosecute the noose-hanging in Jena as a hate crime, and prominent scholars like Orlando Patterson and Richard Thompson Ford have issued contrarian attacks on the Jena Six and black Americans generally. Writing in Slate on September 24, Ford lamented the Jena Six as “the wrong poster children” for the new movement, as if only those who dress and act like Rosa Parks are entitled to equal treatment under the law. And in a New York Times op-ed on Sunday, Patterson eloquently flipped the script, blaming the “catastrophic state of black family life” for “the racial horror of our prisons.” If this sort of backlash continues to predominate, Jena’s “teachable moment” may expire, and the incarceration rate of African-Americans—now at nearly six times that of whites—will keep rising unabated.


One response to “Justice After Jena

  1. The Justice Department ivestigaged the noose hanging incident and determine it did not constitute a hate crime under federal law. In other words, the three white students had committed no crimes

    Following the beating incident, the Justice Department reopened its investigation into the noose-hanging incident and determined there was no link between the nooses and the attack on Justin Barker at Jena High School. U.S. Attorney Donald Washington 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 none of the black students involved in the beating made “any mention of nooses, of trees, of the ‘N’ word or any other word of racial hate.”

    The beating of Justin Barker has no link to the noose-handing incident. The black students who attacked Barker said they were angry at Barker because that overhead him discussing a fight at a private party. The fight was between Robert Bailey, one of the Jena Six, and a 22-year-old white male named Justin Sloan. The police arrested Sloan and charged him with simple battery. Since it was his first offense, he was placed on parole. (Virtually all first offenders are placed on parole. One of the Jena Six was on parole when he led the attack on Barker at Jena High.)

    To date, Sloan is the only person sentenced in connection with any of the Jena Six incidents. He was charged with simple battery because he used no weapon but struck Bailey with his fist (the Jena Police Department says allegations that Sloan hit Bailey with a bottle are false, Bailey wasn’t defensless but fought back, and Bailey wasn’t severly injured; in fact he required no medical attentions.

    The Jena Six are charges with aggravated battery rather than simple battery. One of the following three circumstance or a combination of them elevate simple battery to aggravated battery: (1) a deadly weapon is used, (2) the victim is severly injured, and (3) the victim was vulneral, helpless or defenseless.

    During the trial, the prosecution will argue that Barker was seriously injured. He received a concussion, fracture bones in his face, cut and contrusion. The injuries was serious enough that an ambulance wall called to take him to a hospital, where doctors treated in for two hours. The doctors will testify that concussions are serious and can have long-lasting effects. They will also testify that advised Barker he should stay in the hospital overnight. (Bloggers sayd Barker’s family had no medical insurance and could not afford the overnight stay.) Baker lawyers estimate Barkers’ medical costs at $12,000 to $14,000.

    The prosecution will also argue that the Jena Six continues to attack Barker after he lays helpless and unconscious on the ground. In a sworn written 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.”

    The prosecution will not charge the Jena Six with a hate crime because the state has no hate crime laws; however, the Justice Department could charge them with a hate crime. As stated above, the Justice Department has “cleared” the victim of taunting his attacker with racial slurs. It would now seem appropriate to investigate the attackers to determine if they are guilty of a hate crime.

    Witness statements made by teachers, coaches and students immediately following the beating of Justin Barker have been posted on the Internet. One student testified that one of the Jena Six said, “There goes that white mother f—er who’s been running his mouth,” moments before the black students launched their attack. Another student testified that members of the Jena Six and bullied and threaten other white students before the attack, and yet another student testified that members of the Jena Six claimed to have a list of white students they planned to attack.

    The witness statements are posted at http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com/http. This site includes the medical report on Barker’s injuries which were more severe than Jena Six supporters would have people believe.

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