Family of the White Jena Victim Sues

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Dec. 6, 2007 - The family of the White teen who was allegedly beaten by six Black teens in Jena, La., last year has sued the families of those charged and school district where it reportedly took place.

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Justin Barker, the alleged victim, and his parents, David and Kelli, filed the lawsuit Nov. 29 in Louisiana District Court, claiming that the so-called “Jena Six,” plus a seventh student who wasn’t charged, attacked Barker a year ago Tuesday, as he left the gymnasium of Jena High School.

The attack would never have happened, the plaintiffs contend, if school officials had done an efficient job of supervising students, which explains why the Barkers named the LaSalle Parish School Board in the suit.

Initially, at least five of the six defendants in the case were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, offenses that could have landed them in prison for more than a quarter-century.

The seemingly harsh prosecution for what many Black leaders said had been a schoolyard fight, which is usually punishable by a few days suspension, sparked a massive protest in the tiny Louisiana town in late September.

The charges for each of the teens were eventually dropped to battery.

On Monday, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, the last of the teens still behind bars, pleaded guilty to second-degree battery in return for eight more months in jail, to go with the 10 he already served.

His earlier conviction for battery was thrown out by an appeals court which said the case was improperly tried in an adult court since Bell was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

Criminal trials against he other defendants are pending.

African-American leaders and community activists argue that the entire arrest and prosecution have been motivated by racism.

They contend that the fight with Barker was triggered when White students hung a noose on a tree at school, an act meant to intimidate Black students.

Prior to that, they say, Black students were beaten by White students.

In neither case were the White perpetrators arrested, which critics say created a hostile racial environment that came to a head when Barker and the Jena Six clashed.

Do you think Justin Barker and his family deserve to win this one?

 

Written by BET-Staff

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