Oneofthree’s Musings

The ramblings of a 20 something lawyer

Jena 6

Posted by oneofthree on September 21, 2007

For those of you unaware, the fabulous Rev. Al Sharpton is at it again.  Apparently in Jena, Louisiana 6 black people were arrested for beating up a white kid.  This small town has been simmering in racial tension for at least the past 8 months which climaxed with this beating.  Which prompted Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday over his reaction to the arrest of six black juveniles in Jena, Louisiana, on attempted murder charges, accusing the Illinois senator of “acting like he’s white”.

From what I can gather, this started when a black student sat under what has been known as the “white tree”.  Either the next day, or a few days later, nooses showed up on that tree.  The white students were found, and suspended for three days and allowed to return to school.  For roughly 8 months afterwards, several incidents happened.  Fights, shotguns, arson. 

One incident is that a black student attempted to attend a “white party”.  The student was attacked.  Later, that same black student, along with others attacked a different white student.  The white student went to his truck and pulled his shotgun.  The black student took it away.  The white student was not charged, the black student was charged with theft.  Now – I can kinda understand why they didn’t charge the white student – self defense – although I question whether pulling a shotgun is allowed -even if you are presented with several other attackers.  If he could get his gun, couldn’t he get in his car and leave?  But I can understand, somewhat.  I do not understand the charge of theft. 

About 4 days after the arson of the school, 6 black students,  Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw and Jesse Ray Beard — were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy, according to LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, for attacking a white student, Justin Barker -what the police originally charge someone with, is not necessarily what they will go to court on.  The prosecutor changed the charges to Agg battery with a deadly weapon.  Barker ended up in the hospital and was released several hours later.  Parents of the 6 defendants claim that Barker was using racial slurs against the 6.  Barkers family argues this point.

The prosecution claimed that a shoe was the deadly weapon.  Before you complain, there is caselaw (at least in Florida) that a shoe can be a deadly weapon.  Of the 6, Bell, one has been convicted of aggravated battery, but the conviction was vacated and he remains in jail awaiting a decision from the prosecution.  There is to be a hearing withing 72 hours.  The judge originally refused to reduce his bond citing his prior record, including battery.

There have been several outcries that this is racially motivated as the original white kids were not charged.  My understanding, from Florida law, is a hate crime can only exist when a crime has been committed.  It’s like a label that is applied.  (If I’m wrong, please point me in the right direction)  Hanging nooses, while disgusting, is protected speech.  (just like the KKK can yell whatever they want, if they do not make a move towards anyone they are allowed to preach whatever beleifs they want) I cannot think of a criminal offense that it applies to, neither did the state prosecutor, or federal prosecutors who looked into the case.

What concerns me is that people are using the race card.  If roles were reversed, and it was 6 white kids who attacked a single black male – the NAACP would still be involved, but they would be screaming for prison as a hate crime.  And if someone came along and claimed the 6 white kids shouldn’t be charged b/c the victim called them crackers, the NAACP would run that person out of town.  So why is it ok when it’s a white victim?

While I do not condone the nooses, it was my understanding that part of the original civil rights movement was to make sure the justice system is color blind.  Not blind to only one color.  I don’t agree with anyone claiming that because a racial slur was used, justifies physical aggression – esp 6 on 1.  (those of you who complained about the police being 6 on 1 on the gater fool, think about it.  cake and eat it?)

I do not agree that these kids, or anyone regardless of their race, should be allowed a free pass b/c a victim used a racial slur.  That is something that can be taken into account at the time of sentencing not the actual trial.  It is not a legal defense.

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7 Responses to “Jena 6”

  1. mark martin said

    Thank you for taking the time to wright your post! It saved me the time from saying the exact same thing!! The nooses, very distasteful but protected free speach, no crime. 6 0n 1, a brutial attack, a crime. Now its up to the courts to decide the penalty for such actions, not a screaming mob. If by some miracle of God this makes it to court I would like to save the tax payers some money by asking the court to revue a real act of discrimination , the “United Neggro Coledge Fund” will not assist me with a higher education , and the “NAACP” will not represent me in this matter???
    Westly Snipes says he is being prosicuted for tax evasion cause he is black,,, hey Uncle Sam black people don’t have to pay taxes? I guess its good to have an education from UNCF and legal reprensintation from the NAACP.
    I realy could go on and on and on and on,, but I think you get the idea. It’s too bad the white people can’t take off from work and go take over Jena La.

  2. RCS said

    I’ve read several blogs concerning this matter and one can easily tell when an individual has obviously not experienced what some of us have on a regular basis. For the record, I am African American and believe that these 6 young men should be punished for their actions. In conversing with several other African Americans regarding this case, they also believe that these young been should be punished for their actions. However, most of us are merely saying that the charges are excessive. Someone that had been almost murdered would not be able to attend a party later that evening. Neither one of you mentioned the fact that “the victim” was bragging in the hallway about before this assault took place. Many of you fail to mention the assault involving one young black male who was assaulted by several young white teens, who incidentally had a glass bottle broken over his head. Where are the attempted murder charges against those white teens? 3 nooses hanging from a tree in the south only means one thing. You justify this by saying that nothing physical was done. You fail to acknowledge the history regarding nooses in the southern region of this country. The DA in that area says this has never been about race, yet he failed to charge the white teens for the same actions with the same charges. It became about race when 3 nooses were hung from the school tree. It became about race when the Principal recommended expulsion and the superintendent overrode his recommendation. It became about race when a young black kid is on trial for his life and a jury of his peers is all white. It became about race when in 2007 a kid has to ask if he can sit under a tree that is reserved for whites only.

    Our young people, blacks and whites together, are dying on the battlefield in Iraq and we are dealing with something like this in our own back yard. We say in our “Pledge of Allegiance” “One Nation Under God”, yet some don’t want prayer in our schools. We held a prayer vigil after 911 and it appeared that we all came together for a couple of days or so. It didn’t take long for us to return to our old ways. Prejudice is taught behavior. If you watch little kids on a play ground, they don’t care what color the other children are, they just want to play. People need to open there eyes, whites and blacks alike. Racism still exists in the country at every level. You will never truly understand how a person feels until you walked in their shoes. When you say you know how someone is feeling, how can you really know, if you’ve never been where they have been? There are idiots and racists in every ethnic group. I work hard every day to get the things I want. I wasn’t put through school by the UNCF and I most certainly am not represented in legal proceedings by the NAACP. It is people like Mr. Martin and his stereotypes that help perpetuate what’s wrong in this country

    I’m quite sure that your great grandfather wasn’t hung from a tree by one of those nooses. I’m quite sure that a certain group of people didn’t burn a cross in your front yard. I’m quite sure that somebody didn’t torch your place of worship. It wasn’t that long ago that a black man was savagely drug behind a pickup truck and murdered in Jasper, Texas. It wasn’t that long ago when half of the African American population in Tulia, Texas was railroaded and sentenced to several years in prison on the word of one racist white deputy. It wasn’t until an old white farmer contacted the right people to look into this injustice that those injustices were overturned. Just to help you understand why that march was held, it takes something like that to bring unwanted attention to areas where this stuff exists. That march was about unequal justice. I live this stuff every day of my life. Don’t presume to minimize anyone’s experience until you have walked a mile in their moccasins. And for God’s sake, please tell all of the facts instead of painting the picture you want to see.

  3. oneofthree said

    RCS – very well written response. A few comments –
    1. I agree, as did the prosecutor there, that the attempted murder charges were excessive, I believe that’s why it was reduced. The other side of the story is why did the police arrest on that charge? It could be racially motivated, or it could be that the repeated blows to Barker, supposably after the was on the ground, knocked out.
    2. The glass bottle incident. I agree that the student should be charged. It should be charged with Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon – same as what the 6 are currently charged with. I think a glass bottle carries a little more persuasion as a deadly weapon then a shoe. It wouldn’t classify as attempted murder, not from what I have heard. Police can charge whatever they want, but that’s not automatically what they will go to court on.
    3. I’m not saying that the nooses weren’t about race. Obviously it’s about race. But it’s protected speech. Like it or not, white students have the right to put up nooses. ** this is my understanding from state law – I am looking into federal law to see if there are other charges not available to the states that could be charged **
    4. While I agree that the white students with the nooses were not dealt with strongly enough – if their actions were protected by the first amendment, the school board is limited in what they can do. If they try and expel them, then the school could be charged with violation of civil rights. ACLU and arm bands?

    It’s a horrible situation all over. And I’m glad it was brought to the forefront – I think race is a topic that people get very emotional about, and some people tend to stop thinking rationally when race is mentioned.

  4. oneofthree said

    Also, as for all the facts, can you please give me a link for the glass incident and the incident where Barker was bragging about a previous incident – I haven’t read that, otherwise I would have posted it. Besides that, I think most of the facts are in there, plus links – I did not attempt to paint a story to my liking.

  5. RCS said

    One,

    I appreciate your response. You have some very good points. I truly believe that this very ugly set of events that could have been nipped in the bud. It was handled wrong from the very beginning. I hold the parents of all children involved partially responsible for what took place. The children that hung the nooses had to have learned that from somewhere. Why haven’t those parents spoken out publicly to denounce such reprehensible actions? By calling this a prank, they insulted every person of African American decent in his country. Do people realize how ugly that is? That is like opening up old wounds and pouring salt on them. I just read another story about a white kid being arrested yesterday in Louisiana, near the same area for dragging 2 nooses from his pickup truck. This kid was arrested for driving under the influence, inciting a riot, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. (His 16 year old passenger). Are we going to call this a harmless childhood prank too? We need to start teaching our children that not only is this type of behavior unacceptable, it is also disrespectful. Have they even been taught the history behind this?

    Now, if I may address the other side of the coin. Dr. King believed in changing things by a peaceful process. I believe that Dr. King was not a person driven by his own agenda. I don’t believe that he would be pleased with those young men’s behavior at all. You can’t resolve everything by violence. I’m quite sure that tensions were quite high because of the things that they were experiencing. Yet, that is no excuse to beat that young man until he was unconscious. For that, they must pay a price. The price should fit the crime. The decisions we make dictate the life we live. We have to teach our children to be more tolerant of ignorance. Maybe these very children need to read what their ancestors went through to make it better for them. There may be pockets of African Americans that believe that beating was justified. I’m here to set the record straight. They were wrong, they were wrong, they were wrong.

    I have read so many blogs that I have to back track to get the information you asked me for. Please bear with me. I am saddened that this situation has escalated into something this large. But I also realize that something good can come out of this ordeal. If nothing else, maybe this will open the eyes of people who are in a position to expose the corruption and injustice that happens to some people in this country. I think the DA in this case was over zealous in the prosecution of this case. I also think that he should be investigated thoroughly for his handling of this case. He was negligent at best. Need we remind him of the prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse case?

    And to you One, I apologize if I insulted you in any way in my earlier response. You are absolutely correct when you say that this is a highly emotional topic. I appreciate a forum to express my view regarding this matter.

  6. RCS said

    One,

    I also read an article earlier today regarding Rev. Jackson’s remarks concerning Obama. The article stated that Rev. Jackson said, “My remarks were taken out of context.” The paper that published the article was quoted as saying, “We stand behind our report.” I have no idea who is telling the truth and neither do I care. I have nothing but respect for Obama. I think that he has some very good ideas. I find it very hard to believe that after Rev. Jackson came out publicly in support of Obama earlier this year, that he would turn around and insult him like that. Obama knows how to speak proper english and if that constitutes him being white, isn’t that an insult to millions of black people everywhere?

  7. oneofthree said

    No offense taken, I’m a lawyer – I’ve got thick skin! Did you hear that the school tore down the so called “white tree” soon after the noose incident?

    True about the parents – unfortunatly we live in a society where more and more parents are refusing to take responsibility and raise thier children. I see it every time I walk into juvenile court – parents basically telling the court “I don’t want him/her anymore – you take him/her” sad, very sad state of affairs. In my opinion, of lot of the problems we have today as a society travel back to the lack of a strong home/family life. I beleive single parent homes can produce well adjusted, fabulous kids, the same with gay couples raising children. Somehow our society got sidetracked away from the core family strength.

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