The notorious Jena case Update: Bail denied
posted at 11:18 am on September 21, 2007 by Bryan
The Reverends Al and Jesse have once again parachuted into a small town to throw their weight around and relive the glory days of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps we’ll one day get to the point where the two reverends have become so radioactive that no one will look to them for any answers on any issue, but we’re not yet at that day. The MSM still treats them as credible, though one has blood on his hands and the other is a reverend in name only who has never led a church or even held down a real job. In a just world, the two reverends from the North would be mentioned alongside Louisiana’s own David Duke among the nation’s most notorious racists. Though northern white liberals would have us all think that racism is exclusively white and exclusively Southern, it’s neither.
But back to our story. This time, it’s Jena, Louisiana, which is currently embroiled in a case that is being compared to the Duke rape case, but in reverse: Six young black men stand accused of attempted murder for beating a young white man over an incident at the “white tree.”
The New York Times reports the sequence of events as follows.
They called it the White Tree. Not because of the color of its leaves or tint of its bark, but because of the kind of people who typically sat beneath its shade here at Jena High School.
And when a black student tried to defy that tradition by sitting under the tree last September, it set off a series of events that have turned this town of 3,000 in central Louisiana’s timber country into a flashpoint over the issue of racial bias in the criminal justice system.
Three nooses quickly appeared on the tree a day after the black student sat under it, and not long afterward, the authorities said a white student had been beaten by six black schoolmates. The white student was treated at a local hospital and released; the black students were charged, not with assault, but with attempted murder.
Wikipedia (with appropriate accuracy warning) has a useful timeline.
Racial tensions resurfaced in Jena on September 1, 2006, when hangman’s nooses were discovered in an oak tree on the campus of Jena High School after a black student had asked the vice principal if he and some friends could sit under the tree, where white students had typically congregated. The school administration recommended that the noose-hangers be expelled. The elected La Salle Parish School Board overruled the school, he and the three white student perpetrators received in-school suspension. On November 30, 2006, an arson fire destroyed the main academic building at the school. On December 4, a fight broke out on campus, after which six African-American students, later dubbed the Jena 6, were arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder.
The black kid who sat under the tree showed courage; the noose hangers showed that racism is unfortunately alive and well.
But there were three months between the nooses and the attacks. There are claims that the intervening months were tense between black and white factions. That’s probably true. What’s less clear is the connection between the nooses and the attack. More on that below.
Attempted murder does look like an extreme charge to level at the six, since the victim was treated and released for his injuries on the day of the attack. If the six had wanted to murder the victim, numbers were definitely on their side. What the Times doesn’t report, though, is how the attack occurred or ended. Did the six fight the one after an argument, and did they get run off by some third parties in the middle of the attack, or did they plot the attack and slip up on the victim? Well, evidently it was the latter, according to Jason Whitlock.
There was no “schoolyard fight” as a result of nooses being hung on a whites-only tree.
Justin Barker, the white victim, was cold-cocked from behind, knocked unconscious and stomped by six black athletes. Barker, luckily, sustained no life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital three hours after the attack.
I’m no lawyer, but if Whitlock’s account is accurate, that’s at least aggravated assault. If the attack was broken up by third parties in a way that prevented further injury to Barker, then yes, attempted murder would be among the reasonable charges the assailants could expect to face.
This gives us one important distinction between Jena and the Duke case: In Jena, the accused actually did something illegal. The only question is whether they’re facing reasonable or extreme charges, and if the charges are extreme, why that would be the case. The prosecutors seem to have answered that themselves when they scaled the charges back to aggravated battery and conspiracy. The conspiracy part goes to the overall charges’ seriousness, though, indicating premeditation as opposed to a schoolyard fight.
Whitlock goes on to describe how the case arrived at the point where the Jena Six faced such serious charges.
A black U.S. attorney, Don Washington, investigated the “Jena Six” case and concluded that the attack on Barker had absolutely nothing to do with the noose-hanging incident three months before. The nooses and two off-campus incidents were tied to Barker’s assault by people wanting to gain sympathy for the “Jena Six” in reaction to Walters’ extreme charges of attempted murder.
Much has been written about Bell’s trial, the six-person all-white jury that convicted him of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and the clueless public defender who called no witnesses and offered no defense. It is rarely mentioned that no black people responded to the jury summonses and that Bell’s public defender was black.
It’s almost never mentioned that Bell’s absentee father returned from Dallas and re-entered his son’s life only after Bell faced attempted-murder charges. At a bond hearing in August, Bell’s father and a parade of local ministers promised a judge that they would supervise Bell if he was released from prison.
So it’s not as cut and dried as the reverends would have the world think. Go figure. Jena is a chance for them to get back in the spotlight and be relevant again. Jesse and Al need cases like Jena.
Now, am I saying that there isn’t racial injustice in America today? No. Of course there is. But again, let’s look at the Duke comparison to understand how things are today. Yes, a black man faces more scrutiny on average than a white man. But it’s also a fact that black men commit a disproportionate share of crime. And it’s also true that an ambitious white DA can and did charge white men with a crime that they didn’t commit in order to curry favor with the same two reverends who have descended on Jena, among others, and those reverends convicted the Duke players in the court of public opinion before the case could even get to trial (which, thanks to the flimsiness of the evidence, it never got to). Those same reverends haven’t apologized for rushing to judgment against the Duke lacrosse players. They won’t apologize for making a crusade out of Jena either, even while they ignore inconvenient facts to make their case.
As things stand now, the one of the six who was convicted on the most serious charges, star athlete Mychal Bell, has had his conviction thrown out because he was tried as an adult though he was a juvenile at the time of the attack. He may be re-tried in juvenile court. That’s where he should have been tried to begin with.
By the way, Jason Whitlock, upon whose reporting I have based much of this post, is black.
Update: Mychal Bell’s bail has been denied. And some idiot white teenagers from Alexandria, LA have been arrested for drunk driving and inciting a riot after driving past a crowd of people from yesterday’s march in Jena with a pair of nooses hanging from the back of their pick-up. The younger of those two claims to be involved with the KKK. A local cop summed up their arrest nicely.
“I wish we had a charge in Louisiana for aggravated ignorance, because this is a classic case,” [Police Sgt. Clifford] Gatlin said.
At the very least.