Posted Sept. 12, 2007 – As nationwide pressure mounts on prosecutors in Jena, La., they are gradually reducing charges against five of the six African-American teens who initially were charged with attempted murder for their alleged involvement in a fight with a White schoolmate.
In the latest development, charges for Robert Bailey Jr., one of the defendants dubbed the “Jena Six,” were reduced to aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, to which he pleaded not guilty on Monday.
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Last week, when Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw were arraigned, prosecutors dropped their attempted murder charges to battery.
As it stands now, only Bryant Purvis is facing charges of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, which could draw a sentence of up to 80 years in prison. A sixth defendant was charged in juvenile court. Mychal Bell, the only defendant to be tried so far, was convicted of aggravated battery after the judge threw out his conspiracy conviction. He is still looking at a possible 22 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 20.
Many activists, including civil rights leaders, rappers, students and human rights advocates are planning to descend upon tiny Jena on that day for a rally to protest against the apparent harshness of the prosecution. The school handbook calls for a three-day suspension for fighting.
Some say that between the strictness of the charges and the incident that sparked the fight, Jena is looking like it’s still in Jim Crow’s grip.
The Dec. 4 fight between White Justin Barker and the six Black youths followed an incident when two White students hung nooses in a tree at school to protest a Black sitting under it. It had been common knowledge that only White students could take in the shade of the tree.
Do you think all of the national protests are having a positive impact on the Jena cases? What kind of turnout do you expect there will be at the Sept. 20 rally? Click "Discuss Now," to the right, to post your comment.