Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jena Six Trial Must Be Open to the Public, Higher Court Rules.


Howard Witt, of the Chicago Tribune, reports that a Louisiana judged has ruled on appeal that the Jena Six Mychal D. Bell trial must be held in open court, a win for the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers filed suit to open the trial to public scrutiny:
JENA, La. - A judge ruled Wednesday that the public and the news media should have full access to all legal proceedings involving Mychal Bell, one of the teenage defendants in the racially charged Jena 6 case in Louisiana whose prosecution had been shrouded in secrecy on orders of the trial judge.

Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Chicago Tribune and joined by a coalition of major U.S. media companies, Rapides Parish District Judge Thomas Yeager ordered that Bell's upcoming criminal trial, as well as any pretrial hearings, must be open to the press and the public. Yeager also ordered that the court record and transcripts of any closed proceedings held so far be made available to the news media, and that attorneys for Bell be released from the trial judge's gag order directing them not to speak about the case.

"The right to an open trial is one that's very important," Yeager said in making his ruling, "so that the public has confidence in what we do." Chicago Tribune

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Judge won't drop charges against 'Jena 6' defendant," says CNN, citing this blog for commentary.

CNN reports the following information and then includes our "Jena Scrapbook" in its "From the Blogs Section", as an example of commentary on the issue.

This is from CNN, and the link to this blog is there in the "From the Blogs" section:

JENA, Louisiana (CNN) -- A juvenile court judge Thursday denied a defense request to drop charges against one of six black students accused in the beating of a white student, according to a source inside the courtroom.

art.bell.closeup.cnn.jpg

Supporters surround Mychal Bell after his release at the LaSalle Parish courthouse in September.

Attorneys for Mychal Bell, 17, had argued their client faced double jeopardy because he had already been tried and convicted of battery and conspiracy to commit battery in adult court.

Those convictions were overturned in September, and prosecutors brought charges against him in juvenile court.

Bell's attorneys intend to appeal Thursday's decision to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said the source, who requested anonymity because of the gag order imposed by the judge.

Bell's trial has been set for December 6.

Apparently, one effect of forcing the Jena issue into national awareness has been forcing awareness and citation of Black blogs into the mainstream press.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jena Six Trials to be Held in Open Court



Shawn Williams of the AfroSpear's Dallas South blog brings our attention to an important development in the Jena Six case, reported by the Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt: "Judge backpedals, opens Jena trial to public, but jurist won't allow access to preliminary hearings." It's clear that AfroSpear advocacy is having an effect on the transparency of criminal court proceedings for at least a few Black young people:
Replying to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of U.S. media companies, the judge overseeing the trial of Mychal Bell, one of the teenage defendants in the racially charged Jena 6 case in Louisiana, reversed course Thursday and agreed to open Bell's upcoming juvenile trial to the public.

But LaSalle Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray, in a court filing, maintained that he is not required to open pre-trial hearings in Bell's case to the news media or the public, and he argued that the media lawsuit seeking full access to Bell's case should be dismissed.

The lawsuit, initiated by the Chicago Tribune and joined by the Associated Press, The New York Times Co., CNN and other major media organizations, asserts that Mauffray's earlier decision to close all the proceedings in Bell's case runs counter to Louisiana juvenile laws and provisions of both the Louisiana and U.S. Constitutions. More at the Chicago Tribune.

Friday, October 12, 2007

AfroSpear Furious Over Re-Arrest of Mychal Bell on Old Charges


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As Mychal D. Bell, one of the Jena Six, was re-imprisoned today even after a Louisiana Appeals Court had ordered that he only be tried as a juvenile and he be considered for bail, Blacks and some whites across America are re-evaluating whether the local judge in Jena is in open rebellion against the rest of the criminal justice system or whether the entire system is rotten to the core. Local judge Judge Maufrey, who presides over both adult criminal court and juvenile court in Jena, Louisiana, had released Bell two weeks ago, after orders from the Third Circuit Louisiana Appeals Court, but then suddenly decided to re-imprison Bell today on prior charges that existed at the time when he was released two weeks ago.

Although the legal aspects of the case remain murky, Blacks are generally furious and looking for new strategic options, beyond marching, to compel equal justice in cases concerning Blacks and what some call the criminal (in)justice system.

Howard Witt, a Chicago Tribune writer whose reporting has helped catalyzed public opinion by consistently making the facts known to a larger audience, wrote today,

It was unclear why [judge] Mauffray decided to send Bell to jail on the prior charges. The judge has ordered all the proceedings in Bell's case to be closed and directed all the lawyers in the case not speak about it publicly.

Other experts on Louisiana's juvenile laws said that Mauffray's decision to jail Bell on the earlier charges appeared to run counter to the state's juvenile statutes.

"I don't know the motivation for this judge and the district attorney, but what they did goes against the grain of our own juvenile code, which holds that home and the community is the best place to treat juveniles," said David Utter, an attorney and founder of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. Utter is representing one of the Jena 6 defendants. ChicagoTribune
Having marched sixty-thousand strong in Jena on September 20 in Jena, the AfroSpear bloggers who helped organize the march are determinedly seeking Bell's release, with one blogger even discussing a picketing stores during the Christmas shopping season to pressure all of America to see that Mychal D. Bell does not spend Christmas in jail.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Political, Judicial Pressure Freed Mychal D. Bell, Jena Teen


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Almost like Shaquanda Cotton, Mychal D. Bell has been freed from prison after an immense outcry by the AfroSpear, denouncing a system of injustice that systematically treats Black children much more harshly than it does whites.

But, we cannot even say that Bell is "free," because, even though he has already spent nine months in prison for a alleged involvement in a schoolyard fight, he still faces juvenile court charges that could put him behind bars for an additional three years, until he is 21.

And, as Chicago Tribune's correspondent Howard Witt informs us below, there are still five other Jena Six defendants whose criminal and juvenile trials have yet to begin, who have not yet been tried and convicted by an all-white jury, as Bell was. But, that's what they face and the AfroSpear faces it with them.

Most white Jena youths who attacked a Black student with a broken bottle (potentially assault with a dangerous weapon or even attempted murder), bloodying him, were not charged at all, while the one who was charged was immediately freed and placed on probation.

The struggle in this case is not over. In fact, it's just beginning. As the AfroSpear said in a press release on Setember 15,
We will insist that ALL ADULT AND JUVENILE CHARGES AGAINST ALL 6 DEFENDANTS be dropped now and foreclosed for the future, and that de jure and de facto segregation be ended at Jena High School.

“Afrosphere bloggers and our audiences will continue to assert our role as forceful advocates of equal justice for Blacks in the American justice system.” AfroSpear: Let the World Know that the March Goes On.

Here are the details of Mychal Bell's release, from Howard Witt:

By Howard Witt

Chicago Tribune Senior Correspondent


7:46 PM CDT, September 27, 2007

HOUSTON

Mychal Bell, the black teenager whose incarceration in a racially explosive case helped draw tens of thousands of civil rights protesters to the tiny Deep South town of Jena, La., last week, was released from jail on Thursday after more than nine months behind bars.

Bell, 17, one of six black teenagers charged with the beating of a white classmate at Jena High School last December, was freed after a local judge abruptly set a bond of $45,000, which a local bail bonding firm quickly posted on Bell's behalf.

The youth's release capped a day of mounting political and judicial pressures in a case that has drawn condemnation from scores of national civil rights leaders concerned about perceived inequalities in the town's justice system.

"We still have mountains to climb, but at least this is closer to an even playing field," said Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize last week's massive protest and accompanied Bell as he walked out of jail. "He goes home because a lot of people left their home and stood up for him."

In Washington, the Congressional Black Caucus asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate possible civil rights violations and prosecutorial misconduct in the Jena 6 case.

"This shocking case has focused national and international attention on what appears to be an unbelievable example of the separate and unequal justice that was once commonplace in the Deep South," the group of 43 lawmakers said in a letter to Acting Atty. Gen. Peter Keisler.

A Justice Department spokesman said investigations into the case were ongoing but declined to comment further.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana district attorney whose prosecution of the Jena 6 defendants sparked the civil rights protest declared that only through the intervention of Jesus Christ was Jena spared from a "disaster" last week when more than 20,000 African American demonstrators marched peacefully through the town.

"I firmly believe that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened," LaSalle Parish District Atty. Reed Walters told a nationally televised press conference.

When a black Jena pastor attending the press conference called it a "shame" that the prosecutor was crediting divine intervention for the orderly behavior of the demonstrators, Walters, who is white, said: "What I'm saying is, the Lord Jesus Christ put his influence on those people, and they responded accordingly."

The six-hour march on Sept. 20 drew families from across the nation who rode buses for hours to protest perceived racial discrimination in the mostly-white town of 3,000 people. The demonstration was completely nonviolent; state and local authorities confirmed that they made no arrests and received no reports of property damage.

Walters insisted that he had treated all of the Jena 6 defendants "fairly and with dignity" but said he would not relent in his prosecution of the youths for aggravated second-degree battery in the beating of Justin Barker, a 17-year-old white classmate.

The attack on Barker followed months of racial unrest in the town sparked after three white students hung nooses from a tree at the high school in an apparent warning aimed at black students not to try to sit beneath its shade. In a series of ensuing racial fights both on and off the campus, white students who attacked black students were charged with misdemeanors or not at all, but the six black youths who jumped Barker and knocked him briefly unconscious were initially charged by Walters with attempted murder.

Bell was the first of the teenagers to go to trial. One of the remaining five has been charged as a juvenile, three others await trial as adults and one youth has yet to be arraigned.

Walters said Thursday he had not been swayed by the demonstrators or the attention the case has attracted. But his prosecution of the case has not been smooth.

On the eve of Bell's trial in June, as national scrutiny mounted after a Tribune report about the case in May, Walters abruptly reduced the attempted-murder charges to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. He won a conviction before an all-white jury after Bell's original court-appointed defense attorney called no witnesses and presented no defense.

But the appellate court vacated that conviction on Sept. 14, ruling that both Walters and LaSalle Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray had erred in allowing Bell to be prosecuted as an adult rather than a juvenile.

Walters confirmed Thursday that he had decided not to go through with an appeal of the appellate decision and would instead refile the charges against Bell in juvenile court. That decision cleared the way for Bell's release on bond after Mauffray, who last week refused to set bail for Bell, quickly set the new bond just hours before the appellate court was expected to rule on a defense request that Mauffray be compelled to release Bell.

Had he been convicted as an adult, Bell could have faced up to 15 years in prison. If convicted as a juvenile, he can be held until he turns 21.

Walters' decision not to press for Bell's prosecution as an adult followed an intervention by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who had declined for months to get directly involved in the Jena case.

On Wednesday evening, Blanco emerged from a meeting with Sharpton in Baton Rouge, declaring to the protesters who had marched through Jena that "I share your concerns."

Blanco added: "The Louisiana justice system is designed to correct itself when necessary...The juvenile court system is where this case belongs."

One of Bell's new defense attorneys, Robert Noel, said he was certain that political pressures were having an effect on the case.

"The tide has been turning since we won that [reversal] on Sept. 14," Noel said. "I think Walters is under tremendous pressure. There's not a single district attorney in the state that doesn't want to see this whole thing go away. They are concerned about jury nullification in their own cases--they don't want the system to be seen as so unfair that potential jurors are not going to be willing vote guilty."

hwitt@tribune.com

Southern Poverty Law Center Deconstructs Jena Prosecutor's Bias


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In an e-mail, Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte of ColorofChange.Org says,

"Richard Cohen (of the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center]) and John Tye (civil rights attorney) have a piece deconstructing Reed Walters' recent op-ed in the New York Times, focusing in on his double standard prosecutorial discretion. (I think it touches on a lot of what dnA wrote about it response to the same piece).

It would be great if this got some attention -- it's unfortunate that Reed Walters was given a forum by the New York Times for several outright distortions about the case in Jena (as this piece shows). Richard Cohen and John Tye are very credible voices on this.

Gabriel"

I agree that this is crucial information, so here's the Southern Poverty Law Center article in its entirety:

The Stroke of a Pen
Double Standard in Jena
By Richard Cohen and John Tye


To Reed Walters, the prosecutor in the Jena Six case, his job is a simple one. As he explained in a recent New York Times op-ed piece , "For 16 years, it has been my job as the district attorney to review each criminal case brought to me by the police department or the sheriff, match the facts to any applicable laws and seek justice for those who have been harmed." Just the facts, ma'am.

But Walters ignores the tremendous latitude prosecutors have to raise, lower, or dismiss charges as they see fit, under the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion. The injustice in Jena is not that any criminal charges were brought in the assault on Justin Barker. Rather, the injustice is that black perpetrators in Jena receive a completely different brand of prosecutorial discretion than white perpetrators.

Let's start with the white students who hung nooses from the so-called "white" tree after black students sat under it.

Walters states that the United States attorney "found no federal law against what was done." In actuality, the federal prosecutor told CNN that "the FBI believed that [the case had] the elements of a hate crime ." But because of the boys' ages and backgrounds, he declined to bring charges that could have put them away for 10 years. This is prosecutorial discretion in action.

Walters also had discretion to prosecute the noose-hangers in state court. He claims that the noose incident "broke no law. I searched the Louisiana criminal code for a crime that I could prosecute. There is none." But, it just ain't so.

Louisiana Revised Statute 14:107.2 creates a hate crime for any institutional vandalism or criminal trespass motivated by race. Walters was creative enough to turn a schoolyard assault into an attempted murder case; he surely could have figured out how to make nooses into hate crimes.

But -- and this is a crucial point -- Walters and the Justice Department were right not to prosecute the noose-hangers. Prison terms for them would not have served Jena as well as a thoughtful, measured response that addressed the deep community concerns triggered by the nooses.

Unfortunately, that never happened. Instead, Walters and the school system tried to stifle debate. Black parents were ignored at school board meetings. After black students staged a sit-in under the contested tree, Walters came to the school and, according to numerous witnesses, ominously told the student body that if they did not settle down, "I can end your life with the stroke of my pen."

Reed Walters knows prosecutorial discretion.

Things did settle down somewhat, until an arsonist burned down much of Jena High on November 30, 2006. What happened the next day perfectly illustrates the racial disparity in Walters' decision-making.

On December 1, a black student, Robert Bailey, was attacked by a group of whites, beaten to the ground, and apparently hit with a beer bottle. He suffered a gash to his head.

Walters could have prosecuted the group of whites with felony charges that might have put them away for years, just as he is now prosecuting the Jena Six. Instead, Walters charged one white with a misdemeanor; that person served no prison time. The others walked.

Three days later, the assault on Barker occurred. Bailey and five other black teens were arrested and charged by the police with aggravated second-degree battery, a very harsh charge under the circumstances. But Walters, in an apparent effort to show what he could do with a stroke of his pen, went even further and used his discretion to increase the charges to attempted murder.

Since then, Walters' decisions have continued to raise serious questions. In April, the Supreme Court of Louisiana removed him from an unrelated case -- an unusual and drastic step -- after Walters told the defendant that he was "in the cross hairs," not because of the severity of the alleged crime, but because the defendant had spread rumors about Walters.

In the Jena Six cases, Walters decided to prosecute 16-year-old Mychal Bell in adult court even after dropping the ill-conceived attempted murder charges. An appeals court later ruled that Walters' decision was improper. He's still pursuing aggravated assault charges on the theory that the boys' tennis shoes were dangerous weapons.

Justice should be blind. But prosecutors are not. They see color. And, unfortunately, it often has an impact on how they exercise their prosecutorial discretion. In Reed Walters' case, it's as clear as black and white.

Richard Cohen is president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. John Tye is a civil rights attorney in New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now, let's talk about what's annoying me about the mainstream reaction to Jena, LA

By the Prometheus 6 AfroSpear blog,
via the Afrosphere Associated Press (AAP.)

The official narrative on Jena has been decided. There were nooses hung, then six months later a white kid got jumped.

Find me an article less than a week old that says anything different. And I'd rather think there was a meeting where this was decided than think so many white folks coincidentally decided to ignore the exact same information.

This ignorance is promoted by giving Reed Walters a platform in the New York Times. By overlaying his explanation of things on the most detailed description of events I can find, we see strong evidence of the importance of equal protection under the law.

Many in Jena's black community wanted the three white students expelled. But when the white superintendent and other school administrators investigated, they decided the nooses were a prank. Instead of expulsion or arrest, the three received in-school suspension.

This is the sin at the root of all the commotion. Do not lose track of this. Consider Walters' own opinion

If those who committed that act considered it a prank, their sense of humor is seriously distorted. It was mean-spirited and deserves the condemnation of all decent people.

This means the superintendent and other school administrators, who thought it was a prank, are mean-spirited, deserve condemnation...and are still running the school.

I would like to take this opportunity to make clear that hangman's nooses and burning crosses are to Black people as swastikas are to Jews. You know damn well you'd find charges to press against people who hung swastikas where Jewish people congregated.

Assuming you let them in your neighborhood, of course.

But things didn't calm down. Some whites felt triumphant; some blacks were resentful. Fights began to break out at the high school. But that year, the football team was having an unusually good season and the black athletes were a major reason why. So while there were fights throughout the fall, nobody wanted to take any action that would hurt the team.

It is not a coincidence that everyone who felt triumphant was white, nor that everyone who felt resentful was Black. Whether conscious intimidation or a lengthy Freudian slip, it was what Walters projected.

Am I ignoring the poor victim, Justin Barker, in all this?

Yes, just as WE are ignoring Robert Bailey.

The next night, 16-year-old Robert Bailey and a few black friends tried to enter a party attended mostly by whites. When Bailey got inside, he was attacked and beaten.

No one charged for that assault.

The next day, tensions escalated at a local convenience store. Bailey exchanged words with a white student who had been at the party. The white boy ran back to his truck and pulled out a pistol grip shotgun. Bailey ran after him and wrestled him for the gun.

After some scuffling, Bailey and his friends took the gun away and brought it home. Bailey was eventually charged with theft of a firearm, second-degree robbery and disturbing the peace. The white student who pulled the weapon was not charged at all.

Though Bailey was charged for daring defend himself. We're even going to ignore that Justin Barker admitted in public that he was an accessory after the fact, at minimum, to that assault.

The following Monday, Dec.4, a white student named Justin Barker was loudly bragging to friends in the school hallway that Robert Bailey had been whipped by a white man on Friday night.

Barker should be questioned as to the identity of those who assaulted Mr. Bailey, and charged with obstruction of justice if he refuses to identify them...and if he was just lying he should be charged with inciting a race riot.

But instead, a sneaker was declared a deadly weapon in order to justify trying these six young men as adults. Focusing on Mychel Bell is a diversion because others of them were treated that way. Bell just happened to be unable to raise the bond, and the first to go to trail.

It is within the power of Mr. Walters to identify and punish everyone involved, including the white folks. If he does not, he is using his prosecutorial discretion to ignore the crimes of the white kids that were involved. The purest example of personal racism bleeding over into institutional racism that can be found.

Congressman John Conyers (D) To Call For Mychal Bell's Release


By the Too Sense AfroSpear blog, via the Afrosphere Associated Press (AAP) Wednesday, September 26, 2007

According to the AP, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers intends to call for Mychal Bell's release after meeting with his parents and other black lawmakers. Although all adult charges against Bell have been dismissed on the basis that he is a juvenile and must be tried as such, Bell remains in an adult prison.

A lawmaker said Tuesday he will press the government for the release of a black teenager held in the "Jena 6" case that spurred one of the biggest civil-rights demonstrations in years. Other activists said they planned more protests if the teen is not immediately pardoned.

"Our first responsibility is to get young Mychal Bell out of prison," said Rep. John Conyers, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who said he will pressure the Justice Department to take a hard look at "the miscarriages of justice that have occurred in Jena, Louisiana."

Sharpton maintains that the issue is equal justice, not justifying the actions of the Jena Six in attacking Justin Barker.

"We are not fighting for black kids that beat up white kids. We're talking about the disparity in how the law works," the New York-based activist said, adding that he still expects the local county prosecutor who brought the charges to be called to testify before Congress.

That should have been clear from the beginning. But it's not, because for those who want to keep the Jena Six in prison, the issue really is the race of the attackers and the race of the victim, rather than fairness in how the law is applied. It's not that they think the law wasn't fairly applied, it's that given the circumstances, they don't think it should be.

DA Mike Nifong was disbarred after circumventing the law to bring three white, affluent Duke students up on false charges. Mychal Bell lacks their resources. But if the system is capable of rendering justice under these circumstances, Jena's District Attorney Reed Walters will be following in Nifong's footsteps, and never be allowed to practice law again.

More importantly, the hearings in Congress should bring attention to the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. This issue has somehow escaped the notice of major presidential candidates in both parties, despite the fact that there are more than 2 and a half million Americans in prison, a disproportionate number of which are black.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shawn Williams Addresses Jena on NPR

White supremacist backlash builds over Jena case


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By Howard Witt

Tribune senior correspondent

6:59 PM CDT, September 24, 2007

HOUSTON

No sooner did tens of thousands of African-American demonstrators depart the racially tense town of Jena, La., last week after protesting perceived injustices than white supremacists flooded in behind them.

First a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families at the center of the Jena 6 case and urged followers to find them and "drag them out of the house," prompting an investigation by the FBI.

Then the leader of a white supremacist group in Mississippi published interviews that he conducted with the mayor of Jena and the white teenager who was attacked and beaten, allegedly by the six black youths. In those interviews, the mayor, Murphy McMillin, praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counterdemonstrations; the teenager, Justin Barker, urged white readers to "realize what is going on, speak up and speak their mind."

Over the weekend, white extremist Web sites and blogs across the Internet filled with invective about the Jena 6 case, which has drawn scrutiny from civil rights leaders, three leading Democratic presidential candidates and hundreds of African-American Internet bloggers. They are concerned about allegations that blacks have been treated more harshly than whites in the criminal justice system of the town of 3,000, which is 85 percent white.

David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, last week announced his support for Jena's white residents, who voted overwhelmingly for him when he ran unsuccessfully for Louisiana governor in 1991.

"There is a major white supremacist backlash building," said Mark Potok, a hate-group expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group in Montgomery, Ala. "I also think it's more widespread than may be obvious to most people. It's not only neo-nazis and Klansmen-you expect this kind of reaction from them."

Controversy over the Jena 6 case has been percolating for months but it exploded into national view last Thursday when a crowd of at least 20,000 peaceful demonstrators from around the country marched through the central Louisiana town.

They came to support the six black high school students who were initially charged by the local prosecutor with attempted murder for attacking Barker, a white classmate who was beaten and knocked briefly unconscious last December. The charges were later reduced to aggravated second-degree battery.

The incident capped months of racial unrest after three white students hung nooses from a shade tree at the high school after black students asked permission to sit under it. School officials dismissed the noose incident as a prank, angering black students and their parents and triggering a series of fights between whites and blacks. The whites involved were charged with misdemeanors or not at all while the blacks drew various felony charges.

McMillin has insisted that his town is being unfairly portrayed as racist-an assertion the mayor repeated in an interview with Richard Barrett, the leader of the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist group based in Learned, Miss., who asked McMillan to "set aside some place for those opposing the colored folks."

"I am not endorsing any demonstrations, but I do appreciate what you are trying to do," Barrett quoted McMillin as saying. "Your moral support means a lot."

McMillin declined to return calls seeking comment Monday.

Barker's father, David, said his family did not know the nature of Barrett's group when they agreed to be interviewed, adding, "I am not a white supremacist, and neither is my son."

But Barrett said he explained his group and its beliefs to the Barker family, who then invited him to stay overnight at their home on the eve of last week's protest march.

Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Tribune that he had grown so concerned about white extremists' threats against the Jena 6 families and perceived injustices in the town that he called the White House over the weekend to ask for immediate federal intervention. Jackson said the acting head of the U.S. Justice Department's civil right division phoned him Monday to say that the agency had begun investigating the Jena situation.

hwitt@tribune.com

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD CALLS FOR RELEASE OF MYCHAL BELL

From the AfroSpear's Bronze Trinity, via Commondreams and the Afrosphere Associated Press (AAP)

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD CALLS FOR RELEASE OF MYCHAL BELL, FOR ALL CHARGES AGAINST THE JENA 6 TO BE DROPPED, AND FOR FEDERAL INVESTIGATION INTO JENA 6 ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS / NLG STATEMENT ON JENA 6

Monday, September 24, 2007, 11:44 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 24, 2007

Contact: Kerry McLean, 917-334-9331
Marjorie Cohn, NLG President, 858-204-3565

NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD CALLS FOR RELEASE OF MYCHAL BELL, FOR ALL CHARGES AGAINST THE JENA 6 TO BE DROPPED, AND FOR FEDERAL INVESTIGATION INTO JENA 6 ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) calls for the immediate release of Mychal Bell, one of the six high school students who have come to be known as the “Jena 6.” The Guild also calls for all charges against the Jena 6 to be dropped, and for the investigation and disbarment of Judge J.P. Mauffray and District Attorney Reed Walters.

Judge J.P. Mauffray and DA Reed Walters have engaged in a string of egregious actions, the most recent of which was the denial of bail for Bell on Friday. The NLG urges that: 1) The United States Department of Justice convene an immediate inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the arrests and prosecutions of the Jena 6; 2) Judge Mauffray be recused from presiding over Bell’s juvenile court hearings or other proceedings; 3) The Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigate Reed Walters for unethical and possibly illegal conduct; 4) The Louisiana Judiciary Commission investigate Judge Mauffray for unethical conduct; and 5) The Jena school district superintendent be removed from office. ( . . . )

Walters not only failed to file criminal charges against the students who hung the nooses, he also failed to file charges against a white teen who pulled a shotgun on three black students in the parking lot of a convenience store in December 2006. In a startling twist, the three black teens were arrested and charged with aggravated battery and theft when, exercising their right to self-defense, they managed to take the weapon from the gunman.

In December, shortly before the schoolyard fight for which the Jena 6 were arrested, a white man, Justin Sloan, attacked Robert Bailey with a bottle at a party. Robert Bailey is, coincidentally, one of the Jena 6. DA Walters charged Sloan with simple battery and released Sloan on probation.

Yet in staggering contrast, after a schoolyard fight erupted later that December where a white student was beaten, DA Walters charged six black students with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The student who was beaten was released from the hospital after two hours, and attended a school function that same night. Walters eventually reduced the charges to aggravated battery for most of the boys because he would not be able satisfy in court the necessary legal elements for attempted murder.

Bail for the Jena 6 ranged from $70,000 to $138,000. Most of the six boys remained in jail for months as their parents attempted to raise money for bail. Mychal Bell’s family was never able to raise the money for bail, and he has been in an adult jail since December 2006.

In addition to unequal treatment of blacks and whites under the law, DA Reed Walters has participated in decisions concerning the Jena 6 where there was a conflict of interest. The Jena 6 were immediately expelled from school after being arrested and charged. The six boys appealed their expulsion.

The school district conducted an internal investigation regarding the Jena Six, but Walters would not allow the school board to review it before it voted not to expel the six boys. Walters’ advice to the school board was likely a violation of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s rules regarding conflicts of interest.

Walters had charged Mychal Bell as an adult, even though Bell was a minor when the fight occurred. Judge Mauffray allowed the trial to proceed. An all-white jury, which included a family friend of the white student who was beaten, found Bell guilty. The Third Circuit vacated the conviction because Bell should not have been tried as an adult. DA Walters has vowed to appeal the Third Circuit’s ruling.

Since the Third Circuit vacated the conviction of Bell in September. Bell’s attorneys sought to have Bell released pending Walters’ appeal of the Third Circuit’s decision. Though Louisiana’s Code of Judicial Conduct requires a judge to “disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” Judge Mauffray, the same judge who presided over Mychal Bell’s trial in adult court, presided over Bell’s juvenile court bail hearing on Friday. Mauffray denied the request for bail.

At a separate hearing on Friday, a court denied Bell’s attorneys’ request to remove Mauffray from Bell’s case. Mauffray set an exceedingly high bail of $90,000 for Bell prior to his conviction. The day before Mauffray’s ruling, the case drew tens of thousands of protesters from all over the country to Jena to rally against the Jim Crow era practices.

"The double standard of justice in Jena, one for black students and another for whites, is emblematic of the racism that still permeates many towns throughout the South and the country as a whole. There must be an immediate and full investigation of judicial and prosecutorial malfeasance in Jena, Louisiana," said Marjorie Cohn, President of the NLG.

David Duke emerges as Jena's most ardent defender.


From the Too Sense AfroSpear Blog, via the Afrosphere Associated Press (AAP).

David Duke has emerged as Jena's most ardent defender. Not surprisingly, he sees this as an issue of "white civil rights":
Much has been made of the fact that I won an overwhelming majority of votes in Jena Louisiana in my election bids for U.S. Senator and for Governor. Such is said to falsely label the people in Jena as “racists.” In fact, I won the overwhelming majority of the White vote in the entire state of Louisiana, not just in Jena. Since the people of Jena voted for me twice to speak for them as their Senator and as their Governor, I will ardently speak for them now.

The people of Jena, the people of Louisiana and I are not racist. We simply want justice to be done. We understand that White people in America have lost our basic civil rights. Whites are now deprived of human rights by racial discrimination in jobs, promotions, scholarships, college admissions and in many other programs. More importantly, Whites are increasingly victims of Black racial violence and hate crimes. In fact, a White person is 40 to 50 times more likely to be a victim of Black gang violence than a Black is likely to be a victim of White gang violence.
Reading David Duke reminds me of that old joke about the Jewish guy in Germany during the beginning of the Holocaust. A Jewish friend asks him why he's reading the Nazi newspaper, and he says "Because it has all the good news! We own the banks, we own the government..."

I feel the same way about Mr. Duke believing we are somehow overrepresented in higher education and high paying jobs. It's a facile rationalization for his hatred, but that perception of unequal treatment for white people (when the opposite is actually true) is only slightly refined before being blared 24-hours a day from Fox News, where it gains the kind of legitimacy he could never give it. Simply put what he's saying really isn't so different from what Bill O'Reilly says on a daily basis.

The New South may not be so different in attitude and outlook from the Old South. But as always, we will not be moved, and we will not be intimidated. They can string nooses from Charleston to El Paso, we will not be silent.

Jen 6 - If you think the Jena 6 trial and aftermath is over, you are wrong


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AfroSphere Alert!


Rev. Jackson appeals to President Bush in' Jena 6' case

From the African American Political Pundit AfroSphere Blog, via Afrosphere Associated Press (AAP).

A Web site run by a White supremacist posted the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the 'Jena 6." The site was taken down but returned shortly under another site address. Federal authorities are investigating whether or not the site is breaking any federal laws.

Sunday, the Reverend Jesse Jackson said it is time for the President of the United States to step in.
"People who believe this way are armed legally to do battle with black people and the government. So, people should be aware of this real danger," Reverend Jackson said during a press conference at a South Side church. "There's an urgency in Jena. We need the president of the United States...We need the Department of Justice to intervene before it escalates."
Source: Bayou Buzz

Apparently, according to Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, there are national reports of hate groups publishing private contact information for family members of the Jena Six. Reportedly, this information is on the Internet

Governor Blanco in response issued this statement: "Harassing families involved in the legal issues in Jena can not and will not be tolerated. Public attacks on private citizens done out of ignorance and hatred is appalling, and anyone who stoops to such unspeakable persecution will be investigated and subject to the full penalty of law. I have asked law enforcement agencies to investigate this matter, and as Governor I will do everything in my power to put a stop to these cowardly threats to Louisiana citizens."
BATON ROUGE – If you think the Jena 6 trial and aftermath is over, you are wrong.

Apparently, according to Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, there are national reports of hate groups publishing private contact information for family members of the Jena Six. Reportedly, this information is on the Internet.

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Governor Blanco in response issued this statement: "Harassing families involved in the legal issues in Jena can not and will not be tolerated. Public attacks on private citizens done out of ignorance and hatred is appalling, and anyone who stoops to such unspeakable persecution will be investigated and subject to the full penalty of law. I have asked law enforcement agencies to investigate this matter, and as Governor I will do everything in my power to put a stop to these cowardly threats to Louisiana citizens."

Also, according to various news stories, bail which had been set for $90,000 for one of the black individuals who battered a white and whose conviction was overturned last Friday, has been denied by the Court. Because the matter is in juvenile details are uncertain if no bond was set or if there was a refusal to allow a bond or if there was a refusal to allow the payment of the prior bond.

Also, a white male hailing from Colorado has been arrested in Alexandria Louisiana for various charges. The male reportedly had a noose in his possession. There are also reports that he has family associations with the KKK. BayouBuzz.Com

All-White Juries vs. the "Group Juror" Concept


I also think we should present a direct challenge to the caselaw and the fake belief in color-blindness by, for example, insisting on the abolition of all-white juries. I think we should advocate the "Group Juror" concept, under which every jury must have at least one member who is of the skin-color/ethnic group/linguistic group of the defendant.

Whites will say that this is unconstitutional. We will counter with this question: "Why is it constitutional to have all-white juries but unconstitutional to have one member on the jury who is Black?"

We will probably not win this change on the short term, but we will put America's all-white juries on trial, make the findings of all-white juries (Mychal D. Bell) appear inherently suspect, and focus national attention on color-based injustices in the criminal (in)justice system.

Francis

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bell Denied Bond, Neo Nazi Group Targets Families Of The Jena Six

By the Too Sense AfroSpear Blog


Friday, September 21, 2007

The judge today denied Mychal Bell bond, citing previous battery charges.

Mychal Bell, the sole defendant who remains behind bars from the group of teens known as the "Jena 6," will not be released Friday, a court decided.

Bell, 17, has been in jail since his arrest more than nine months ago.

It was not immediately clear what happened in court Friday, where Bell's attorneys had planned to push for his release.

"It is our understanding that the judge refused to give bond or bail to Mychal Bell today," the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist who traveled to Jena for Thursday's rally, said in a written statement.

A source inside the court said the issue of bond was not discussed at the hearing. Attorneys did not immediately comment. The proceedings, involving a juvenile, are not open to media.

In addition, a Neo-Nazi group has published online the home addresses of the families of the Jena Six, along with a threat. The FBI is investigating.

Also on Friday, the FBI said it was looking into an online posting by a neo-Nazi white supremacist group that published the home addresses of all six of the African-American teenagers, as well as the phone numbers of some. The group said on its Web site it is calling on followers to "let them know justice is coming."
I wonder who gave them that information. It couldn't have been someone who lives in Jena could it? No one is racist in Jena or has any connections to white supremacist groups, that's simply an invention of the media.

This is still so far from over.

Jena School Administrators Violated 1st Amend. Establishment Clause, Sponsoring In-School Religious Services


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No time for Black parents and students at School Committee meetings, but schools are open for Sunday and Monday school-sponsored prayer meetings during school hours.

Although Jena School officials denied Black students and parents time at school committee meetings to address the hanging of nooses in the school "noose tree," school officials nonetheless sponsored religious prayer services at the high school, on a Sunday and on a weekday during students' lunch time. This would appear to violate the Establishment Clause of First Amendment of the US Constitution.

An ACLU Legal Bulletin

The Establishment Clause And Public Schools

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."


These opening words of the First Amendment to the Constitution set forth a dual guarantee of religious liberty. Both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause operate to protect the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of all Americans. Quoting Thomas Jefferson, the Supreme Court has stated that the Establishment Clause was intended to accomplish this end by erecting a "wall of separation between Church and State." Everson v. Board of Educ. of Ewing, 330 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1947).

It is one of the fundamental principles of the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence that the Constitution forbids not only state practices that "aid one religion . . . or prefer one religion over another," but also those practices that "aid all religions" and thus endorse or prefer religion over nonreligion. Everson, 330 U.S. at 15. See Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 53 (1985)("[T]he individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all"); see also County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573, 589-94, 598-602 (1989); Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1, 17 (1989); Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 (1961).

For the past 20 years, the federal courts have utilized the three-pronged framework first set forth in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), to maintain the separation of government and religion. Under the so-called "Lemon test," a court must inquire (1) whether the government's action has a secular or a religious purpose; (2) whether the primary effect of the government's action is to advance or endorse religion; and (3) whether the government's policy or practice fosters an excessive entanglement between government and religion. See 403 U.S. at 612-13. In recent years, the Supreme Court has also frequently asked whether the challenged governmental action constitutes an impermissible "endorsement" of religion. See, e.g., Allegheny, 492 U.S. at 592 (inquiry is whether the government "convey[s] or attempt[s] to convey a message that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred"); id. at 592-94; School District of the City of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U.S. 373, 390 (1985)("[A]n important concern of the effects test is whether the symbolic union of church and state effected by the challenged governmental action is sufficiently likely to be perceived by adherents ... as an endorsement, and by nonadherents as a disapproval, of their individual religious choices").

( . . . )

It violates one of the Establishment Clause's most fundamental principles to turn government power over to religion. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the public school is the forum through which basic norms of citizenship are transmitted to the next generation and is thus a "vital civic institution for the preservation of a democratic system of government." See Abington Township, 374 U.S. at 230 (Brennan, J., concurring). When government permits a religious group to take over part of the school's facilities during instructional time, however briefly, it strongly implies official endorsement of that religion. In the Grand Rapids case, the Supreme Court stressed the importance of avoiding any "symbolic link" between government and religion. The Court held that the second ("effects") prong of the Lemon test will not be satisfied where the government fosters a "close identification of its powers and responsibilities with those of any -- or all -- religious denominations." School District of the City of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U.S. at 385. ACLU

"Silence is not the answer," says today's New York Times on Jena


The New York Times says today,
( . . .) Jena could have treated the noose incident as a teachable moment -- a catalyst for important discussions about the history of race relations in Louisiana and beyond. For instance, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana could have explained to the Jena assembly why she introduced a resolution on Feb. 7, 2005, apologizing that the Senate hadn't passed anti-lynching legislation despite repeated attempts throughout the 20th century.

White students might then have realized, in the words of her resolution, that "the crime of lynching succeeded slavery as the ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction." They could have begun to understand why the hanging of a noose could never be seen as an innocent prank. ( . . . ) New York Times

Jena Police Declared State of Emergency Before the 9/20 March

Saturday, September 22, 2007

State of Louisiana v. Mychal D. Bell, Rendered 9/20/2007 (Order to Hold Habeas Hearing Within 72 Hours)


STATE OF LOUISIANA
COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT

NO: KW 07-01160
Judgment rendered and mailed to all
parties or counsel of record on
September 20, 2007 at 10:30 a.m.

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF MYCHAL D. BELL

FILED: 09/19/07

On application of Mychal D. Bell for Writ of Review in No. J-4002 on the docket of
the Twenty-Eighth Judicial District Court, Parish of LaSalle, Hon. John Philip
Mauffray, Jr.
Counsel for:
Louis Granderson Scott
Mychal D. Bell
Carol Denise Powell-Lexing
Counsel for:
Hon. J. Reed Walters
State of Louisiana
Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September 20, 2007.

WRIT GRANTED AND MADE PEREMPTORY: The trial court is hereby
ordered to conduct a hearing on the Defendant's application for writ of habeas corpus within 72 hours of this opinion, pursuant to the provisions of La.Code Crim.P. art.

354 or La.Ch.Code arts. 812-831, if applicable.
_________________
_________________
_________________
JDS
MGS
JDP

State of Louisiana v. Mychal D. Bell, Rendered 9/18/2007 (Decision on Motion to Enforce is "Premature.")


STATE OF LOUISIANA
COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT
NO: KM 07-01142
Judgment rendered and mailed to all
parties or counsel of record on
September 18, 2007.

STATE OF LOUISIANA VERSUS MYCHAL D. BELL

FILED: 09/18/07
On application of Mychal D. Bell for Motion to Enforce in No. 82112 on the docket
of the Twenty-Eighth Judicial District Court, Parish of LaSalle, Hon. John Philip
Mauffray, Jr.
Counsel for:
Louis Granderson Scott
Mychal D. Bell
Carol Denise Powell-Lexing
Counsel for:
Hon. J. Reed Walters
State of Louisiana
Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September 18, 2007.
MOTION NOT CONSIDERED: The motion for release from custody, filed by the
Defendant in this court, is premature. The Defendant does not allege that he has filed an application in the trial court seeking release from custody, based on this court's prior ruling vacating his conviction in district court, pursuant to either the habeas corpus provisions of La.Code Crim.P. arts. 351, et. seq., which mandate a hearing on such a motion within seventy-two hours, or the bail provisions of La.Ch.Code arts.

817-831, if applicable. See also La.Code Crim.P. art. 912.1(C)(1).
For this reason, the Defendant's motion is not considered.
_________________
_________________
_________________
SRC JDS
MGS

State of Louisiana v. Mychal D. Bell, Rendered 9/18/2007


STATE OF LOUISIANA COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT

NO: KW 07-01129

Judgment rendered and mailed to all
parties or counsel of record on
September 18, 2007.
STATE OF LOUISIANA
VERSUS
MYCHAL D. BELL

FILED: 09/13/07
On application of Mychal D. Bell for Writ of Review in No. 82112 on the docket of
the Twenty-Eighth Judicial District Court, Parish of LaSalle, Hon. John Philip
Mauffray, Jr.
Counsel for:
Louis Granderson Scott
Mychal D. Bell
Carol Denise Powell-Lexing
Counsel for:
Hon. J. Reed Walters
State of Louisiana
Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September 18, 2007.

WRIT DENIED: The issues presented in the Defendant's writ application to this
court are moot. See State v. Bell, an unpublished writ opinion bearing docket number
07-1106 (La.App. 3 Cir. 9/14/07).

For this reason, the Defendant's writ application is hereby denied.
_________________
_________________
_________________
MTA
JDP
JTG

State of Louisiana v. Mychal D. Bell, Rendered 09/14/2007


STATE OF LOUISIANA
COURT OF APPEAL, THIRD CIRCUIT

NO: KW 07-01106
Judgment rendered and mailed to all
parties or counsel of record on
September 14, 2007.

On application of Mychal D. Bell for Writ of Review in No. 82112 on the docket of
the Twenty-Eighth Judicial District Court, Parish of LaSalle, Hon. John Philip
Mauffray, Jr.
Counsel for:
Louis Granderson Scott
Mychal D. Bell
Robert S. Noel II
Peggy J. Sullivan
Counsel for:
Hon. J. Reed Walters
State of Louisiana
Lake Charles, Louisiana, on September 14, 2007.

WRIT GRANTED AND MADE PEREMPTORY; STAY DENIED: The trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion in arrest of judgment regarding his conviction for aggravated second degree battery. The Defendant was not tried on an offense which could have subjected him to the jurisdiction of the criminal court pursuant to either La.Ch.Code arts. 305 or 857; therefore the provision of La.Ch.Code art. 863, permitting the trial court to retain criminal jurisdiction over juvenile defendants under limited circumstances, is inapplicable, and jurisdiction remains exclusively in juvenile court.

Accordingly, the ruling of the trial court denying Defendant's motion in arrest of judgment, as to his conviction for aggravated second degree battery, is hereby reversed, vacated and set aside. The motion in arrest of judgment is granted, and the conviction for aggravated second degree battery is vacated.

Further, the Defendant's request for a stay of all matters in district court, as
well as those pending on other charges in juvenile court, is hereby denied.
_________________
_________________
_________________
MTA
JDP
JTG

Dallas South Blog Interviews with Dallas Morning News

Cross-posted at the Francis L. Holland Blog.

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Here's an interview with the AfroSpear's Shawn Williams, Dallas South Blog, that will appear in the Dallas Morning News (largest daily in Dallas) this Saturday.

Like many public events these days, this week's Jena rally came together largely through the efforts of bloggers. One of them was Dallas resident Shawn Williams, 33, who helped spread the word through his Dallas South Blog (www.dallassouthblog.com) .

In an e-mail interview with The Dallas Morning News Friday, the pharmaceutical salesman and member of Friendship-West Baptist Church reflected on his blog and the Jena rally:

The News: Give us the background on the Dallas South Blog. Did you create it? What is its aim?

Mr. Williams: I started Dallas South Blog 15 months ago as a way of expressing myself, but as the site has evolved, the goal is to promote positive images of African-Americans to contrast the negative images put forth daily in the popular press.

The News: Have you been involved in other civil rights movements or protests before?

Mr. Williams: I think the movement is ongoing. Since college I have been aligned with these types of issues in some form or fashion, but most recently I worked to rid our neighborhood of a sexually oriented business that was being built in walking distance of a charter school.

The News: What was your role in this week?s trip to Louisiana?

Mr. Williams: Besides helping to get 1,000 folks that left from our church on the right bus, I was just a participant. I marched, I listened, I shouted, but mostly, I was there in support of the young men who stand accused.

The News: Did you network with other bloggers?

Mr. Williams: I am a member of the Afrosphere Bloggers Association . We had day of Blogging for Justice on August 30th, where many of us blogged about Jena at the same time.

The News: How will Thursday's event advance the civil rights movement?

Mr. Williams: No one can answer that. I am hopeful that the African-American community will commit to seeking justice and equality for the long hall. Cases like this happen all over the United States. We must use this energy to highlight injustice and to take responsibility for our own community and our own future.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Judge Denies Request to Free Jena Teen, Mychal Bell




The Associated Press, via the Washington Post
Friday, September 21, 2007; 9:25 PM

JENA, La. -- A judge on Friday denied a request to release a teenager whose arrest in the beating of a white classmate sparked this week's civil rights protest in Louisiana. Mychal Bell's request to be freed while an appeal is being reviewed was rejected at a juvenile court hearing, effectively denying him any chance at immediate bail, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because juvenile court proceedings are closed.

Earlier, Bell's mother emerged from the hearing in tears, refusing to comment.

Bell, 17, was convicted of aggravated second-degree battery, which could have led to 15 years in prison. But his conviction was thrown out by a state appeals court that said he could not be tried on the charge as an adult because he was 16 at the time of the beating.

"This is why we did not cancel the march," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, an organizer of Thursday's rally along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the NAACP. "When they overturned Mychal's conviction, everyone said we won."

Jackson said in an interview Friday that federal intervention is needed to protect Bell's rights. Sharpton said he has scheduled meetings in Washington with congressional leaders to discuss the Jena Six case.

At a separate closed hearing Friday, a judge refused a request from defense attorneys to remove Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr. from Bell's case, said John Jenkins, father of one of Bell's co-defendants.

Defense lawyers have complained that Mauffray set a high bail for Bell _ $90,000 _ prior to his conviction in the Barker beating. Mauffray had cited Bell's criminal record, which included juvenile arrests for battery and damage to property, in setting the bail.

On Thursday, the case drew thousands of protesters to this tiny central Louisiana town to rally against what they see as a double standard of justice for blacks and whites. The march was one of the biggest civil rights demonstrations in years.

The case dates to August 2006, when a black Jena High School student asked the principal whether blacks could sit under a shade tree that was a frequent gathering place for whites. He was told yes. But nooses appeared in the tree the next day.

Three white students were suspended but not criminally prosecuted. LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters has said he could find no state law covering the act.

The incident was followed by fights between blacks and whites that culminated in the attack on Justin Barker, who was knocked unconscious on school grounds. According to court testimony, his face was swollen and bloodied, but he was able to attend a school function that night.

Five of the teens were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder _ charges that have since been reduced for four of them. The sixth was booked as a juvenile on sealed charges.

Nooses Found At High School In High Point (NC copycat)


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WFMY news 2 | 9/21/07 | Sarah Lanse, Free Republic

Posted on 09/21/2007 11:14:47 AM PDT by Rb ver. 2.0

Police are trying to figure out who hung at least four nooses at Andrews High School in High Point.

High Point -- School leaders found and removed four nooses at Andrews High School in High Point Friday morning.

Police and school leaders are looking for a fifth noose.

Police don't know if it's connected to the Jena 6 incident in Louisiana. They think it could also be a prank from Asheboro High School. Andrews and Asheboro face off Friday night in football.

Police are interviewing Andrews football players, students and faculty to try and develop leads.

Students will be making signs, saying they won't tolerate this type of behavior.

The school system is sending letters home with students. They're also activating their connect-ed system to send a voice message to parents' homes explaining what happened.

Jena Brings Tears to My Eyes, of Sorry and of Hope


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I'm not getting a lot of sleep because I'm trying to stay on top of developments, read the news coverage and see where things are going next.

This morning, I started to cry while reading reading a blog called Listen to me for a minute, by a brother named

"Racial Tension in a Small Louisiana Town: Jena in Brief."


He clearly was moved to start this blog because of the Jena Six, and I urged him to become part of the AfroSpear's Black Accused Support Groups (BASG's). I hat tipped him, (mentioned him at my blog), but I never heard from him, perhaps because he needs to keep his anonymity. Or maybe his blog was set up for him by an Afrosphere activist like me, who sets up blogs for others in order to publicize their situations.

Anyway, this is the comment I posted on his blog back on May 21: (I was the first person to comment on his blog, which I had found by Googling "Jena, noose, high school") :

"Racial Tension in a Small Louisiana Town"

16 Comentários - Mostrar postagem original Reduzir comentários

Francis L. Holland Blog disse...

The Afrosphere is a national and international group of Black bloggers dedicated to equality in the criminal and civil justice systems for Blacks and all Americans. Within the Afrosphere we have a group called the Black Accused Support Groups (BASG) that works with Black people, family, friends and communities, to assure that individual Blacks and all Blacks receive justice in the criminal justice system.

Our blogs have just become aware of the situation in Jena as a result of an article by Howard Witt, and we have begun reporting on the cases. We offer our support to individuals and the community, to publicize and strategize about solutions for Jena and and similar situations that exist, unfortunately, across throughout the United States of America.

Although Howard Witt is an excellent reporter, we should not have to read national white newspapers to find out what's going on in local Black communities. By linking all of our blogs together, we are able to stay on top of important stories before they are mentioned in the national press and even if they are never mentioned in the national press, because when all of our blogs are linked together, we become a national press.

May 21, 2007 8:32 AM

When I read that comment today, I start to cry, and my eyes are watering again now. We are never alone in the AfroSpear, as long as our blogs are linked, which is why we insist on the fundamental role of our AfroSpear linklist that unites each blog with all of the AfroSpear. That's our lifeline. And now I'm crying again.
Francis

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Jena 6, Shaquanda Cotton, and Blog Power


September 20, 2007

By CHARLES MODIANO

One must wonder if without the aid of the internet: would "The Jena 6" ever made national mainstream news?; would Shaquanda Cotton still be locked up?; or even, would we have experienced the meteoric increase in profit-inducing prisoners over the last 30 years? And what about all the other Bell's and Cotton's who never received a protest march in their name. Is it because we simply don't know their stories? Witt reports that thousands of juvenile cases in Texas are currently being reviewed "as part of a sweeping overhaul of the scandal-plagued system". While this is encouraging news, what will happen in Louisiana and the other 48 states? In 1964, grotesque television images helped coalesce just barely enough national support to get President Johnson to sign a new "Civil Rights Act" in the face of vitriolic segregationists. Is it possible for BLOG POWER to wake up America to deal with Jim Crow's children and get a "Criminal Justice Reform Act" signed at a juncture in American history that boasts a rise in hate groups?

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While such a suggestion may only be a pipe dream, BLOG POWER is not quietly hoping for Senators, governors, and other elected officials to do their job, nor is it patiently waiting for Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, or Joe Scarbarough to determine what is newsworthy. BLOG POWER is a place that demands an end to mainstream media's insidious practice of "racism-by-omission". It is a "cyber rights movement" that won't stop until widespread white denial is widely denied. It is a new virtual democracy at work and a voice for the voiceless. But perhaps the greatest contribution that a handful of committed local journalists and thousands of committed bloggers can make is not its ability to show that Jim Crow has returned, but only to demonstrate that he has never really left. Read all of "Jim Crow's Children," by CHARLES MODIANO.

Blog Power Fuels Civil Rights Movement, Says Electronic Village


September 20, 2007

Blog Power Fuels Civil Rights Movement,

Says Electronic Village

Today was a remarkable day. Seeing the streaming video of the Jena, LA protest march was inspiring on a number of levels. The highlight for me came when it was announced that a mandatory hearing must be held within 72 hours to explain why Mychal Bell is still sitting behind bars. Chances are good that the massive pressure will result in the young man being released from prison within the next 3-4 days.

The other amazing thing is to realize that our efforts in the afrosphere are recognized as the catalyst for this massive protest today in Jena, LA. The most extensive analysis that I've seen can be found on Counter Punch in an article entitled, 'Jim Crow's Children'.


"The development of Jena story is only part of a much larger "Cyber Rights Movement" that has been gaining greater ground in America in 2007. Let's call it "BLOG POWER"! It goes a little something like this: yet another African-American teenager falls victim to Jim Crow-like criminal injustice; the injustice is covered in some local newspaper; national mainstream media completely ignores story; story spreads like wildfire across hundreds of predominantly African-American blogs; national media still ignores it; bloggers still blog; national media keeps ignoring; bloggers keep blogging on irresponsible national media; one national mainstream outlet might pick up story; bloggers keep blogging; other embarrassed national outlets might pick up story; bloggers keep blogging; finally, previously voiceless activists start to receive national media attention; bloggers keep blogging; more well-known activists such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are part of planned widespread national march; bloggers keep blogging; just days prior to the scheduled protest the charges against the young teenager have been reduced or thrown out. While there exist many examples of BLOG POWER, perhaps the greatest two in 2007 involve "The Jena 6" and Shaquanda Cotton. But before we examine what they represent, some context might be necessary."

Lousiana Appeals Court Orders Monday Hearing on Bell's Detention


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The Jena 6, Shaquanda Cotton, and Blog Power



Jim Crow's Children

By CHARLES MODIANO


Did you hear the good news on "The Jena 6"? The adult conviction and potential 22 year sentence of Mychal Bell has been overturned. This comes less than one week before widespread protests scheduled for this Thursday in Jena, Louisiana. Since this case and the fate of the other five boys are a looooong way from being resolved mass protests will continue as planned.

The development of Jena story is only part of a much larger "Cyber Rights Movement" that has been gaining greater ground in America in 2007. Let's call it "BLOG POWER"! It goes a little something like this: yet another African-American teenager falls victim to Jim Crow-like criminal injustice; the injustice is covered in some local newspaper; national mainstream media completely ignores story; story spreads like wildfire across hundreds of predominantly African-American blogs; national media still ignores it; bloggers still blog; national media keeps ignoring; bloggers keep blogging on irresponsible national media; one national mainstream outlet might pick up story; bloggers keep blogging; other embarrassed national outlets might pick up story; bloggers keep blogging; finally, previously voiceless activists start to receive national media attention; bloggers keep blogging; more well-known activists such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are part of planned widespread national march; bloggers keep blogging; just days prior to the scheduled protest the charges against the young teenager have been reduced or thrown out. While there exist many examples of BLOG POWER, perhaps the greatest two in 2007 involve "The Jena 6" and Shaquanda Cotton. But before we examine what they represent, some context might be necessary. Read the whole article at CounterPunch!

Jena Six is International News in the United Kingdom


Hundreds Join Jena 6 Rally in Louisiana

Thursday September 20, 2007 1:31 PM

By MARY FOSTER

Associated Press Writer

JENA, La. (AP) - Hundreds of black-clad protesters, from college students to veteran civil rights activists, descended on this small town for a rally Thursday in support of six black teenagers who were initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate. Guardian.CO.UK

Barack Obama: Call for an End to All-White Juries!

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AfroSpear's Francis L. Holland Blog

and Electronic Village Blog on MSNBC

Senator Barack Obama says that he is the candidate for president who would be most able to bridge divides of color in America. If so, this would be an excellent time for him to prove it. If he steps forward now with new proposals for addressing and ending the systemic injustices that have led thousands of people, Black and white to protest in Jena, Louisiana today, then Barack Obama might be able to capture the imaginations of Americans and provide leadership, showing the way forward. He could create a new consensus for threshold notions of fairness.

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This crucial moment in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement will truly tell us much about Barack Obama's modus operandi. If he were elected president, would he feel compelled to mostly ignore debates about skin color in order to avoid disagreeing with white perspectives and thereby being fatally cast as the "Black candidate." Would be bridge divides or simply be the proponent for a "new denial." Can Barack Obama come forward with substantive alternatives to the status quo that about which Blacks and whites as well as Latinos can endorse and feel good?

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For example, the Jena, Louisiana criminal panel that convicted Mychal was an all-white jury.
A court-appointed attorney in Bell’s adult trial did not present any evidence or witnesses in his defense before an all white jury convicted him of guilty of second-degree aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit second-degree aggravated battery. Black America Web

Because Blacks, at one time, were forbidden by law to sit on juries, all white juries are an historical symbol of systemic anachronistic injustice, constituted by prosecutors and the courts precisely because they are more likely to be blind to the guilt or innocence of Black people and to render injustice based on prejudices. All-white juries are not an accident that yield accidental injustice. Instead, they are both a manifestation and factory of prejudice. There is no justification to insist on all-white juries in this day and age.

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March is coming, but Jena mayor requests "smaller numbers."

So, will candidate Barack Obama step forward and propose that every jury be composed of at least one "group juror" who is a representative of the accused's ethnic group? Of course this one juror would still be in the overwhelming minority and would be in no position to single-handedly change or guarantee a fair process or result. The group juror could only act to help review the evidence and pique the conscience, both of the jury and of society.

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A new insistence upon ending all-white juries would focus America's attention on the inherent unfairness of a system that so often is so careful NOT to have minority jury participation when convicting and sentencing minorities. In the process of implementing a "group juror" consideration, the new thinking required to end all-white juries would shine a continuous light into an unfair court system and bring constant attention to other forms of injustice, focusing America's attention first on the injustice that is most visible in order to build a political will for a continual effort to end injustices that are more subtle.

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"By the time the Jena Six story came around, there was a group of probably 80, 90 bloggers who would e-mail one another daily."

AfroSpear's Shawn Williams, Dallas South Blog.

The group juror concept is a direct challenge to notions of color-blindness promoted by the Roberts Court in its decision to overturn Brown v. Board of Education. And this proposal would put insistent discriminators on the indefensible defensive.

What, after all, is the great need to maintain the institution of the all-white jury? Would having ONE member of the defendant's color be so injurious to the prospects for justice? In order to make justice truly blind in America, it is time to redefine the term "a jury of one's peers" in the public consciousness to mean a jury that includes at least one member of one's own ethnic group.

Does this mean that an Arab terrorist must have at least one Arab on his jury? Yes it does. And how or why would the presence of one Arab so confound the system that justice could not be served?

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Meanwhile, a call by citizens and organizers for an end to all-white juries would be one way of maintaining the public's focus on the most blatantly obvious systemic unfairnesses. The group juror proposal is a way of asserting the inherent unfairness of a criminal justice process that excludes the participation of Blacks, and this is so even in cases where the defendant's guilt or innocence is unclear, as it always is until a jury has pronounced its sentence.

Of course, many people will insist that this proposal is unconstitutional, that the courts must "ignore the skin color or the defendant" while convicting Black youths at a rate six times higher than whites. These defender of all white juries will insist that maintenance of all-white juries is, in fact, constitutional while the "Group Juror" proposal is not. Yet arguments for that proposition would show the idiocy of all that has transpired in the discussion of skin color since Bakke. Because if all-white juries are truly essential to our Constitution, (and I don't believe they are) then it may explain why there are so many Black people in jail. The group juror proposal is based on the Constitutional proposition that our society deserves a fair trial to determine each defendant's guilt or innocence.

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Constant updates on the Internet and Black radio

have galvanized Black Americans.

Advocating for the group juror proposal challenges the assumption that "justice is blind," and that a system run exclusively by whites can be fair to those who are not. This advocacy challenges Americans to concede the inherent fairness of a "jury of one's peers."

As such, the "Group Juror" proposal subtly and obliquely offers a rationale for Obama's own candidacy, which is predicated on the belief that no person should be excluded from service based exclusively on the color of his skin, while no system should systemically ignore or discount the services to democracy and justice that are offered by those who are not white men.

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"Mychal Bell, the only one of the Jena Six to be found guilty . . . His conviction has been overturned but he's still behind bars . . . " - - MSNBC

As such, the Group Juror proposal would be a direct challenge to America's history of systemic segregation and discrimination, while those who believe that all-white justice is a good thing would be compelled to step forward and defend that proposition. In any case, if Barack Obama cannot step forward now to show America the way out of this Jena morass, then he may effectively be conceding that he cannot and does not offer something to unite us that his opponents do not.