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The Story of the Jena 6: A Miscarriage of Justice

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In a high school in Jena, Louisiana, a beautiful shady tree became a symbol of the racial tension. The high school allowed the school property to be coopted by the whites and it was known as a “whites only” place for students. A black freshman decided he would like to sit there and went to the principal about the tree. A day later, after the freshman requested to sit under a tree, three nooses were hung.

A few of the star football players, who were black, staged a protest by standing under the tree. The incident was reported to the principal who called the incident a “prank” and suspended the offenders for three days. This incident led to heated racial tensions. At an all white party in the fall, a black student was struck over the head with a bottle. The white offender was charged with a misdemeanor.

In another incident, a white man pulled a gun on a group of black kids. The black kids wrestled the gun away and reported the incident to the police who charged them with attempted robbery of the gun.

The situation came to a head on December 4th when a fight broke out and six black teens were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. A white teen was battered and concussed and spent a few hours in the hospital. He was released and attended a party later that evening.

The DA was committed to making a statement with the three black teens and increased the charges to second degree attempted murder and conspiracy. In a statement to the press, the DA promised that when the 6 boys were convicted, he would pursue the maximum penalty allowed by law which could be up to 100 years.

In a two day trial in which the defense offered no testimony, no witnesses, the first of the six boys was convicted of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit the same. This conviction carries with it a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. The boy has already spent months in jail while his family scrambled to come up with enough money to meet the high bail set by the judge.

This boy is known as one of the Jena 6 and this story is not one that happened in the 1930s or 1950s or 1970s. It happened last year and Mychal Bell was convicted on June 28, 2007, just a month ago. I read a few comments on other blogs where the Intel ad appeared in which the commenters claimed that people were reading too much into the ad and that racism really was overplayed.

When I read the stories about the Jena 6, I was moved to tears at the injustice of it. A two day second degree murder trial? It would take longer to pick a jury than to try a case. I’ve read that a number of scholars and lawyers are collaborating on the appeal of Mychal Bell and in the defense of the next 5 trials.

You can read more about the Jena 6 and the travesty of justice that is happening right now, in our country at the following sites:

Via MagicNoire.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. Rosie
    Jul 31, 2007 @ 21:48:02

    I’m beyond words. Utterly stunned. Thanks for the links. I’ll be checking to see if there is a legal defense fund I can contribute to. Or, better yet, some high profile and successful criminal defense attorneys who want to take the case pro bono.

  2. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jul 31, 2007 @ 23:05:01

    I had no idea this was going on. As usual, total injustice. I’ll check back on this one.

  3. Angela
    Aug 01, 2007 @ 04:47:14

    There’s a petition going around that I’ve been passing along to friends and acquaintances on myspace and facebook. From what I hear from folks who live in the South, Jim Crow ain’t dead, he’s just resting. Here goes one from the NAACP:
    http://www.naacp.org/get-involved/activism/petitions/jena-6/index.php

  4. Vernieda
    Aug 01, 2007 @ 05:13:22

    Thank you for posting this. The more people who know about it, the better.

  5. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 01, 2007 @ 06:27:23

    Oh now this is just plain wrong. I can’t condone the violence on either side, but hell, this is just plain wrong on so many levels. Makes you sick.

  6. Angela James
    Aug 01, 2007 @ 07:27:42

    Thanks for sharing this, Jane.

    Like others, I had no idea this had happened, though I must admit to largely ignoring the news. Reading this made me feel sick and saddened. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

  7. Keishon
    Aug 01, 2007 @ 18:17:53

    I heard about this. Truly sad and scary.

  8. Vernieda
    Aug 02, 2007 @ 10:48:39

    Hi again. I hope it’s okay to link this here.

    This is the Jena Six Legal Defense Fund: https://secure.colorofchange.org/jena_fund/

  9. sherry thomas
    Aug 02, 2007 @ 21:45:24

    I wasn’t going to read this post at first, because miscarriage of justice always makes me angry. And I was right, this makes me so angry. But thanks for posting it, Jane. I need to know what’s going on outside my comfortable cocoon.

  10. Joan
    Aug 23, 2007 @ 07:04:15

    I’m forwarding this to all the people I know. We can’t allow bigotry against children. That principal need his/her license revoked. Why doesn’t the federal authorities get involved.

  11. Natasha
    Sep 12, 2007 @ 08:43:56

    I’m extremly upset over this . It is evident that AMERICA is Still BLIND to Racism. We have this hatred against one another but yet everyone seems to forget that our sons and daughter of THIS country are DYING in IRAQ. CLEAN UP YOUR ACT IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY. Look at how we all were affected over 9/11/01. OR DID WE JUST Forget. HOW many people of all races were lost that day. If Those young black men are going to get this sentence those White kids deserve it too! What, WHAT MAKES THEM SO above the law or having respect for one another. All these kids were in the wrong. BUT, Above any of the kids . I’m disgusted with the superintendent , authorites , the Donkey Judge and Jurors that were on this case. May the heartache that you bring to these kids rest in your kids fate one day!!

  12. Starlight
    Sep 20, 2007 @ 02:50:54

    This really makes me so sick in my tummie. How people could be so wrong towards another race. I believe they are been’ wrong to judge somebody. Did they even look at the facts. Why do the white kids get off and dont get jail time, but the black kids do. What is really wrong with are people these days. OMG it just makes me want to go over there and put the judge and jurors in prision……I SO AGREE WITH NATASHA ON THIS ONE “It is evident that AMERICA is Still BLIND to Racism. “

  13. Yusuf brown
    Oct 02, 2007 @ 17:48:43

    i dont like when people ack like this i mean this is just plain wrong just brcause were black. that does not mean nothing they have slaved us for so long its not even funny. that boy was treated wrong he should’t have gone to jail i mean it was the white man idea to do a stupid thing like that and im only 7 years old. if the whites are hearing this you better stop because if you dont you will or you are going to hell if you kill us or not we will be going to heaven and not burn down into hell.

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