Posted Sept. 15, 2007 – The last remaining conviction against one of the "Jena Six" teens, who were initially charged in the alleged beating of a White schoolmate, has been dropped.
A state appeals court on Friday decided to throw out the aggravated battery conviction against 17-year-old Mychal Bell, stating that he was a minor at the time of the alleged incident and shouldn't have been tried as an adult in the first place. Bell was found guilty of second-degree aggravated assault and was facing 15 years in prison.
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"There is no substitute for victory. Giddy is the right word,'' defense attorney Bob Noel said at a news conference in Monroe, La.
Will the March Go On?
Bell was due to be sentenced on Thursday in a case that has drawn international attention and widespread criticism for the alleged unfair treatment of Blacks in the racially charged north Louisiana town of Jena.
Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, had been planning a rally in support of the teens for the day Bell was to have been sentenced.
So will the march still go on?
In an e-mail statement to The Associated Press, the Rev. Al Sharpton wrote that although there won't be a court hearing, the rally for the Jena Six will still go on.
"Hopefully Mychal Bell will join us,'' Sharpton said.
According to Bell's mother, Mychal is still in jail but should be released on Monday after his paperwork is processed, reports KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, La.
Five of the teens were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, carrying sentences of up to 80 years in prison. The sixth faces undisclosed juvenile charges.
Earlier this month, charges against Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. That same reduction was made for Bell, who was initially tried and found guilty.
Still awaiting trial are Robert Bailey Jr. and Bryant Purvis, who still face attempted murder charges, and the unidentified juvenile.
How the Conflict Surfaced
The conflict in Jena, La., a communty of about 2,900 Whites and 350 Blacks, surfaced last September, at the start of the schoo year, when Black high school students discovered three hangman's nooses swinging from a tree on campus. The rope appeared after a Black student sat under the tree, which was a usual hangout spot for White students.
The students accused of placing the nooses were suspended from school for three days. Six Black students, who have become known as the "Jena 6," were charged with attempted murder after an alleged attack on 18-year-old Justin Barker, a White student.
A motive for the attack was never established. Barker was treated at a hospital emergency room and released after about three hours.
Jackson said on Friday that this case "is not over yet... .The pressure must continue until all six boys are set free and sent to school, not to jail.''
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