Friday, September 21, 2007

A Series of Very Bad Judgments Led to the Jena-6 Controversy

Back in September of 2006, a black student, named Kenneth Purvis sought school permission to sit under the so-called “White Tree,” a gathering place for white students at Jena High School. Like most schools in America, the students at Jena self-segregated.

The school administration responded, “You can sit wherever you like.”

The day after Purvis and a few friends sat under the white tree, three nooses were found hanging from the tree – two black and one gold, which were Jena High’s school colors. THAT was the first bad judgment.

Three white students were charged with hanging those nooses and were suspended from school for three days. The school administration dismissed the nooses as a “childish prank,” without further comment. That was the second bad judgment in this situation.

The following day, black students staged a spontaneous protest rally under the tree where the nooses had been discovered lead in this protest. Several black male athletes took the same students who were eventually accused of attacking Justin Barker. This was yet a third bad judgment in this event.

Shortly after that incident, District Attorney Reed Walters addressed an emergency school assembly called in response to the spontaneous student protest. With a dozen fully uniformed (and I’m assuming, armed) police officers in the auditorium, Walters warned protest organizers with the admonition, "I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of my pen."

Walters has admitted under oath that he made this remark. His words were not aimed at the entire student body, nor at black students in general, he was speaking to the student athletes we now call the Jena 6. This was the fourth bad judgment in this case and appears to be an almost Nifongesque abuse of authority.

In several signed statements, numerous white and black students mentioned a series of verbal altercations during the lunch hour preceding the attack on Justin Barker. That was yet another bad judgment on the part of those students involved.

Three days before the lunchroom taunting, a black student named Robert Bailey and a few of his friends were invited to an all-white student party by some of their white friends. When Robert entered the building, he was punched in the face by a 22 year-old white male. In seconds, Robert was assaulted with beer bottles, punches and kicks in a virtual mirror image of the altercation that would occur at the high school three days later, with the major difference being that Robert Bailey remained conscious after the initial blow and was thus able to minimize the impact of the attack. He was neither hospitalized nor required medical treatment.

Despite the fact that the attacker in the assault on Robert Bailey was known, no charges were filed in that criminal offense. Both the assault and even worse, the failure to press charges on the part of Reed Walters, the Jena D.A. were critically bad judgments, making two such poor judgments for Mr. Walters, the Jena D.A.

On December 4th, 2006 a white Jena High School student Justin Barker, 17, is beaten during a fight with black students. Barker was initially knocked unconscious and numerous black students than punched and kicked Barker while he was unconscious. He was treated and later released at a local hospital.

In this case, six black students -- 17-year-old Robert Bailey Jr., 17-year-old Theo Shaw, 18-year-old Carwin Jones, 17-year-old Bryant Purvis, 16-year-old Mychal Bell, and a 14-year-old boy -- are arrested in connection with the assault. All but the 14-year-old are charged as adults with attempted second-degree murder. All six are expelled from school.

On June 26th, 2007, the very morning of Bell's trial, the district attorney reduces the charges against him to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. Bell is tried and convicted by an all-white jury. He faces up to 22 years in prison.

On September 4th, 2007, a Louisiana District Court judge dismisses the conspiracy charge against Bell but lets the battery conviction stand, although he said Bell should have been tried as a juvenile. Charges against Jones and Shaw are reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. On September 10th, 2007 the Charges against Bailey Jr. are reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. On September 14th, 2007 the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals reverses Bell's aggravated second-degree battery conviction, ruling that he had been tried improperly as an adult. The local district attorney may appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court or refile the case in juvenile court.
All of those show more poor judgment by Reed Walters, the Jena D.A.
The Jena case has some similarities to the Duke Lacrosse scandal, in that a sitting District Attorney misused his powers – failing to charge the attacker of Robert Bailey and then over-charging the assailants of Justin Barker.
Certainly, there is no question that the assault against Barker was more severe and as such, worthy of stronger punishment, but both crimes should’ve been vigorously prosecuted.

And in both cases, the students (the Duke-3 and the Jena-6) have wrongly been lionized by the misguided. In the Duke case, while the Duke Lax players were WRONGLY accused (not so in the Jena-6), they weren’t “great guys!” I’ve had numerous exchanges with those who lionized them and the fact is, they were engaged in under-age drinking and other “conduct unbecoming” students at Duke (including the hiring of a stripper). Durham D.A. Mike Nifong was the PRIMARY villain in that case, Crystal Gail Mangum was the willing dupe and the Duke LAX were all, in fact, wrongly accused.

In the Jena-6 case, there aren’t any WRONGLY accused, as all 6 of those black students assaulted Justin Barker. In THAT case, the Jena D.A. is guilty of (1) over-charging those students, with attempted second-degree murder charges, which he dropped just prior to trial and (2) failing to charge the white assailants of Robert Bailey, which was indeed a miscarriage of justice.

It's important to note that that’s where the comparison ends, while BOTH District Attorney’s made some egregious judgments, the Duke-3 were, in fact, wrongly accused, the Jena-6 appear to have all been directly involved in the assault on Justin Barker.

In fact, while the Duke-3 were the ONLY real “victims” of Mike Nifong, the abuses of Reed Walters have overshadowed the real victim in the Jena incident – Justin Barker. He was indeed the victim of a criminal assault.


Rachel said...

I have been watching this on the net since my (white) boyfriend told me about it. Man, there is so much that is not being told because it doesn't fit the narrative.

like someone said, because it was in the south, everyone wanted it to be like Mississippi Burning

ps - how do you feel about the SCHIP throw down come Sep 30? W's painted into a corner, and the lower-class kids might lose in the process of politics. Because if he vetoes it, the Dem Congress will have approval as the "party for the children"

JMK said...

Good point Rachel.

I've seen the coverage and now different details have come to light as well, so it doesn't look like Mississippi burning, but the media loves this stuff.

I'm actually quite shocked that the kidnap/torture case in West Virginia,

Now THAT crime appears to be an incredible act of human depravity.

If that crime, is as reported, it SHOULD carry with it the charge of "kidnapping with the intent to torture," and that SHOULD be a death penalty bounce.

JMK said...

As for the SCHIP challenge by the Democrats, I really don't know what to think.

The poorest Americans should all be covered under Medicaid, so I don't know why the idea of covering those with parents earning as much as $80K/year or more under SCHIP is such a good one, but I DO know how the MSM's going to spin it!

Rachel, I'm beginning to believe it's more and more true, "An informed voter is bad news for Democrats."

Not that they're so hot for Republicans either.

I wish there were some third Party that actually stood up for working people and didn't see government as a kind of bureaucratic Santa Claus - a "doler of goodies."

Thanks for stopping by, I always enjoy your comments.

Rachel said...

one argument i heard was the 80k a year was for those in NYC where the standard of living is much higher

i have family members who are single parents. I was raised by a single parent. Even if one marries and follows the rules things happen and at least children should not be allowed to suffer. So I support SCHIP and believe W should sign it...but remind people that its the Dems who are basically trying to bribe middle class votes by providing back-door nationalist care instead of telling their own intentions up front

JMK said...

That's a quandry Rachel, as to the medical coverage dilemma that many single parents suffer, but if the current administration signs it into law it's "his" (G W Bush's) no matter how he'd try and spin it...and it would be the Republicans once again "selling out their base."

Here's their problem; Liberals and Left-wing Democrats are never going to give a Republican President credit for anything they agree with - either "Democrats dragged them to it," or "the public pressure got to them."

So there's no "upside" there.

Meanwhile, the GOP's Conservative base reviles the excesive spending to date and is stalwartly opposed to any form of "socialized medicine."

If the GOP signs onto this they'll have garnered no good will from the Left, which wouldn't support them in a one Party race, and they'd have alienated a large chunk of their own base, on the heels of already alienating much of America over their support for the so-called "sham-nesty Bill" on illegal immigration.

The REAL force behind government managed care or "Universal healthcare" right now is the Corporations, who finally see a way out from under the ponderous weight of providing healthcare for over 85% of Americans.

Believe it or not I sympathize with the corporate world and believe they shouldn't be responsible for our healthcare (OK, maybe you'd have no trouble believing that), but THAT'S why I believe that some form of "Universal Care" or government managed healthcare is on the way.

The problem I have is with our current tax code that makes such things veritable "income redistribution" programs.

As you might expect, I don't like that idea and I don't support it, because even though I understand that "the poor" generally have far more needs than those who are more well off, largely due to those better educated and more well-off people making better all around life-choices, I don't understand why anyone would believe that the poor have any "right" to have those needs taken care of at another's expense!

That's why, increasingly, I support a National Retail Sales Tax (NRST) or the "Fair Tax" ( to REPLACE the personal and corporate income tax, payroll and FICA taxes, etc.

A simple 21% NRST would bring in even more revenue than our current system, encourage more productivity/work, tax the truly "rich" (those who don't depend upon income for wealth) and those engaged in the underground (off-the-books) economy as well.

Right now, far too many people are getting a free ride and this inane idea of "income redistribution" has to be abandoned.

What would I say to those who are poor, have a lot of kids, little education and few job skills to support a lifestyle replete with expensive bad choices?

I'd say pretty much, "Straighten up and fly right. Nobody owes YOU anything, YOU owe the society that birthed you something."

OR, as Bill Bratton put it so succinctly when asked about his policies toward NYC's "squeegee-men," "I say, get off the booze, get off the drugs and get a job."

Rachel, it's not that I don't sympathize with the poor, it's just that I EXPECT the same from them as I would anyone else - if a person can't take care of their own basic needs, they probably need to be institutionalized.

I earnestly believe that 99% of us WANT to be productive, WANT to produce and live better. More often than not, I see government progrmas actually getting in the way, rather than "helping."

People don't need micromanaging and government control, student loans, small business loans, etc. are the most effective "helping hand" government can give, in my view.

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