Sunday, September 16, 2007

The ‘Jena Six’

Things are looking up for six black teens charged with trying to kill a white classmate last year after a Louisiana court vacated the conviction of one of the men.
By Gretel C. Kovach

National civil-rights advocates say something remains very amiss in the small town.

Sept. 15, 2007 - Civil rights protestors are still planning to converge on tiny Jena, La., next week—even though the “Jena Six” claimed a major victory Friday. It’s been nine months since six high school students were arrested and accused of trying to beat a white classmate to death. Even longer since nooses were found hanging from a schoolyard oak tree favored by whites the morning after black students dared to venture under its boughs.

Mychal Bell, the 17-year-old former Jena High School football star convicted on a felony assault charge in the case, has been incarcerated since the December fight. But on Friday, a state appeals court vacated Bell’s conviction. He was 16 years old at the time of the fight and should not have been tried as an adult, the court ruled. The attempted murder charges were also reduced recently for the other Jena Six teens facing adult punishment. Local black residents and many outside observers said the murder charges were overly harsh. The only weapons involved were the students’ tennis shoes, and while the white victim was treated for injuries at a hospital, he went home the same day.

See: ‘Jena Six’ a symbol of bigger problems?

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