Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Saturday, September 15, 2007
A glimmer of justice
The aggravated battery charge against Jena 6 member Mychal Bell was vacated by a Louisiana appeals court on Friday:

Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on an emergency defense appeal, reversed the aggravated second-degree battery conviction of Mychal Bell, 17, ruling that the youth had been tried improperly as an adult in a case that has raised allegations of unequal justice in the small, mostly white town.

Last week, the judge who presided over Bell's trial in June, LaSalle Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray, vacated a conspiracy conviction against the youth for the same reason, but inexplicably let the more serious battery conviction stand. Now the local district attorney, Reed Walters, must decide whether to refile the entire case in juvenile court.
Walters, who himself should be under criminal investigation in this case, has indicated he will appeal the reversal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Bell's trial was wrought with gems from a by-gone era:

Walters initially charged Bell and five other black teens, who have come to be called the "Jena 6," with attempted murder after the white student was beaten and knocked unconscious at Jena High School last December. The white student suffered cuts and bruises but was treated and released from a local hospital.

Walters later reduced the charges to aggravated second-degree battery, contending at Bell's trial -- the first case to go to court -- that the tennis shoes Bell was wearing constituted a dangerous weapon. ...

... the beating incident followed a series of white-on-black attacks in Jena in which the white assailants escaped serious charges. And it capped months of escalating racial tensions in the town set off after three white students hung nooses from a tree in the high school courtyard in what was perceived as a threat to blacks. School officials called the noose incident an "adolescent prank" and declined to expel the white students, outraging black students and their parents.

... Bell has remained in jail since December, unable to post a $90,000 bond. But his attorneys said they would go before Mauffray on Monday seeking to have Bell released. The judge declined previous defense requests to reduce Bell's bond, citing several juvenile assault convictions on the teen's record.

Bell's pro bono attorneys, brought into the case by civil rights leaders after his conviction, have argued that his trial, heard by an all-white jury, was filled with irregularities, including a court-appointed public defender who called no witnesses on his behalf and a prosecution witness who was one of the white youths who hung the nooses at the high school.
The march in Jena is still on, as of today, and buses are leaving from around the country, including here in South Florida. And did you catch the fact that Bell's bail is just $10,000 less than those sick, twisted animals in West Virginia, who are charged, not with getting into a fight, but with kidnapping, gang raping a torturing a woman? Nice touch...

Here's hoping the negative attention jolts the town of Jena into the 21st Century.

P.S.: Where are you, Kathleen Blanco?


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