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Two Years Later, Jena 6 Await Day in Court

Black America Web.com, News Report, Denise Stewart Posted: Dec 05, 2008

Two years after a fight with a white schoolmate landed six black youths in Jena, Louisiana in jail, most of the young men have not had their day in court, and chances are that day will not happen this year, lawyers say.

Only one of the youths known as the Jena Six, Mychal Bell, has been sentenced and is currently in the custody of the Louisiana juvenile system. Others involved in the Dec. 4, 2006 fight in the small town are moving on with their lives, but haunted by a cloud of prosecution.

Earlier this year, attorneys for the remaining five youths were successful in getting Judge J.P. Mauffrey removed from the case. But LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters appealed that decision, attorneys said, and that matter is yet to be settled by a Louisiana appellate court.

In Jena, and in other parts of the country, there is little talk of the case that, in September 2007, stirred one the largest civil rights protests in recent history. Five of the six students charged, including Bell, originally faced attempted murder charges. Bell was convicted in adult court and could have received 15 years in prison, but the conviction was thrown out by an appellate court that said he should have been tried as a juvenile.

A lot of people are no longer concerned about the Jena Six, says Tony Brown, a radio talk show host in Alexandria, La. A majority of the people on the legal side and on the public side want this thing to go away, Brown told BlackAmericaweb.com. Its been a public relations nightmare for the state.

In addition to the huge march and rally in 2007, where tens of thousands bused in to Jena to protest, the House Judiciary Committee last year convened a hearing on the case, and it captured headlines around the world.

Through his show, Brown helped turn the spotlight on the plight of Bell, Carwin Jones, Jesse Ray Beard, Theo Shaw, Bryant Purvis and Robert Bailey Jr. The youths were arrested and charged with felonies following a fight with a classmate, Justin Barker. The prosecutor in the case said the fight was a vicious assault that sent Barker to the hospital. That fight followed several other incidents in and around Jena High School, including the hanging of a noose. No charges were brought against white youths who hung the noose.

Last December, Bell agreed to a plea bargain. Hes been attending Carroll High School in Monroe, La., and will graduate this month, said Louis Scott, Bells attorney.

He has better than a 3.0 average, and hes looking to go the college and play football, Scott told BlackAmericaweb.com.

Still there are hurdles. Because Bell still is technically in the custody of the juvenile system, lawyers may have to get approval for him to attend a college in a different area, Scott said.

When he was at Jena High School, Bell was a standout on the football team and had been considered a prospect for college. He had petitioned the Louisiana State High School Athletic Association to play this fall. That request was denied, so his chances of playing one more season to try to impress college recruiters were wiped out.

Even though he wasnt on the team at Carroll High School, he helped with team, sort of as an assistant, Scott said. The team still gave him an award.

Two of the other Jena Six youths were able to play football this year.

Bailey played at Shaw High School in Georgia, and Beard played ball at a prep school in the Northeast, their attorneys said.

Were proud of the way Robert has handled himself. Either moving to .....

Related Articles:

Black Juveniles Face Indifferent Justice System

Black Blogger Says Jena 6 Is New Civil Rights Movement

Jena Six Mom Speaks

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