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.


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.