Jena Six: Law Bloggers Cite Confusing Facts

The number of law-bloggers hesitant to chime in on the Jena 6 case is growing. One reason given: The facts are not only confusing, but in several significant instances, in dispute. ESPN has this pretty good primer but it's hard to get the narrative from just one source, there are just too many variations.

Earlier this week there was Instapundit and Orin Kerr. They are now joined by Ann Althouse.

So, are the facts confusing or too disputed to pass judgment? Yes and no.


Like other bloggers, I got a few emails about the case before the march. It wasn't until the day of the march that I did my own research. I spent more than three hours reading news articles online and on Lexis and reading blogs. I also watched the CNN one hour special. Even afterwards, I was too unsure of key details to do anything but write a post linking to news sources.

The MSM coverage was not particularly helpful. This is not about a singular event but a course of events, including criminal acts, that culminated in yet another criminal act. But too many news articles glossed over critical components.

There's also a lack of double-sourcing or other reliable means available for resolving the disputed facts with respect to several essential components of the story.

While I still can't make judgments as to much of the story, I have no problem declaring the case one of prosecutorial over-charging and abuse of a system that allows prosecutors discretion in charging juveniles as adults. I think the only reason the kids were charged with such serious felonies was to get Mychal Bell, then a juvenile, into adult court.

From details in this account of the trial, I also am confident in saying Mychal Bell did not receive a fair trial. His conviction, though, has been vacated on other grounds by the court of appeals. Presumably, those mistakes won't happen at his retrial, if there is a retrial.

I'm not jumping on a hate-crime law bandwagon that says the white kids who hung nooses should have been charged with a hate crime solely because of those acts. I'm opposed to criminalizing acts based on thought. If there's proof the kids acted with the intent to intimidate others, then charge them with criminal intimidation. Punish the act, not the thought behind it. Also, the noose incident occurred months before the series of physical confrontations. It obviously triggered hostilities, and justifiably so, but legally it can't justify physical retaliation, particularly months later.

The key legal question being asked is whether the Jena Six have been or are being prosecuted unfairly based on racial considerations. Unfortunately, many of the facts necessary to make the determination are in dispute, confusing or unverified by impartial sources.

The critical sequence of legal events begins not the day of the noose hanging, but on November 30, the day the school is torched. Everyone agrees there are no leads to the arson. But prior to that, this event needs mentioning:

Incident number one in dispute: The assembly on September 6, one week after the noose incident, at which the the District Attorney told the students that with one stroke of his pen he could ruin their lives. The DA says he was addressing everyone with that remark. The black students said he was looking only at them when he said it.

Returning to events occurring after the November 30 fire:

Incident number two: the party December 1, the day after the school burned down, at which black student Robert Bailey was assaulted. Justin Sloan, a white student, was charged with misdemeanor battery and given probation. As to complaints that Sloan was treated differently than the Jena Six, these questions arise: Was Bailey assaulted only by Sloan or by others as well? There are versions out there that say it was just Sloan and others that say he was hit with a bottle and attacked by a group. How badly was he injured? Again, there are differing versions and Bailey didn't seek medical attention. It's hard to determine on these facts whether Sloan got a slap on the wrist or others should have been charged. If either were the case, it would provide support for those contending the DA routinely prosecuted blacks involved in fights more harshly than whites.

Incident number three: the encounter at the convenience store on December 2 between Bailey and some black friends and Matt Windham, who is white. The only facts in agreement are that Windham, after encountering Bailey and friends outside the store, went to his car and pulled out shotgun which Bailey and friends wrestled from him. Bailey was charged with robbing Windham and stealing the firearm. Windham wasn't charged.

Facts unknown or in dispute: Whether Windham, who had attended the school a few years earlier, was present when Bailey was attacked the night before? Did he participate in that assault or egg it on? Was he injured during the convenience store scuffle to the extent he needed and obtained medical care at a hospital? One local news report indicates so, but I haven't seen that verified.

Incident No. 4: The attack of Justin Barker at school on Dec. 4. The eye witnesses disagree as to whether Mychal Bell was the one who hit Barker and knocked him unconscious. It was an all white jury. His lawyer presented no evidence, despite there being a witness, a coach, who would have said Bell was not the initial attacker. Eyewitness accounts varied greatly of everything from the sequence of events to who said what to the clothes the attacker was wearing.

Did the DA charge the youths with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (or conspiracy to commit second degree murder, whichever it was) just to get Bell into adult court? I think the answer to that is yes, but assuming so, was it because of his prior record or because he is black?

Did Justin Barker incite the attack on him by using racial epithets in commenting on the assault on Bailey at the party? If so, should the DA have factored that into his decision on which charges to bring, or is that only a matter that should be considered in mitigation of punishment by a judge?

No. 5: Why is Mychal Bell's bail so high? Is it because of his criminal record or because he's being treated unfairly due to his race? Is Bell a repeat violent criminal? Not in my view. His four prior convictions are two simple batteries, months apart and two misdemeanors for damage to property. Regardless of how the law in Louisiana technically categorizes him, I don't think he fits the bill of a violent offender.

But, he was on probation for those offenses at the time of the Dec. 4 beating. Is that the reason his bail is high and prosecutors object to his release? If so, there's nothing unusual about that.

There are no ready answers to these questions without a review of police records and trial transcripts, which have not been made available. That's what makes this case so difficult to write about.

Does Jena have a race problem? I'd say it does now. Did the DA unfairly overcharge the Jena Six? Yes. Was it due to race? I don't know. Knowing whether the D.A. directed his assembly remarks to all students or just the black ones, as they maintain, would go a long way in resolving this. But, there's no video and there's disagreement about it.

Should Matt Windham have been charged with pulling a gun on Bailey and friends? I think so. I see no justification for that act. Who are the supposed eyewitnesses to this incident who back up his version of events? If Windham should have been charged and wasn't, the only factor at play I can see is race. (And minor question: Is he related to then-school principal Scott Windham?)

Should those who attacked Justin Barker be tried for battery? Yes. Should they be charged with more serious offenses or as adults? No.

Right now, the two biggest flaws I see from a legal (not social) perspective are prosecutorial abuse in charging juveniles as adults and that a white kid who pulled a gun on black kids didn't get charged with any crime. That incident is particularly suspect to me.

I'm sure some commenters will take issue with this presentation of events and case details. I've tried to separate sourced and verified facts from those found on sites that interpret, particularly with a specific agenda. It's not an easy task, and in the end, I conclude there's no just cause for criticizing law bloggers for not rushing in to condemn.

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    The People of Jenna Speak (1.00 / 1) (#14)
    by MSimon on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:36:19 AM EST
    You might want to look at what some of the people of Jena have to say about the incidents.

    Jena - Searching for Facts.

    This story is garbled because of The Narrative.

    In fact the Big Media has garbled it as bad as the Duke case for the same reason. Race, class, gender, theory has overtaken facts. Just as in the Duke case.

    Jack Okie:

    Some of your questions may be answered at the above link.

    BTW I have heard that at least one of the Six has a prior for arson and is under investigation for the school fire.

    rodeo team,

    Your time line is messed up. Plus the guy who asked the "can I sit under the tree" is known as a school jokester. He assisted the boy under assault until the adults got there. The tree was never a whites only tree. It was a school spirit gathering place.

    I'm also told that inter-racial dating was not unknown at the school.

    A pastor from Jena who commented on the case (see above link) said that he thought Jena needed to work on its racial issues at first. Now he thinks that the drive by media has caused more problems for Jena than the racial divide did.

    BTW see what Jason Whitlock (a black sports writer - quote and link at the above link) had to say. He says the first failure was Bell's father, who was absent from his life until this incident.

    white only tree? (none / 0) (#22)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:48:02 AM EST
    Your time line is messed up. Plus the guy who asked the "can I sit under the tree" is known as a school jokester. He assisted the boy under assault until the adults got there. The tree was never a whites only tree. It was a school spirit gathering place.

    I've read the claim that the tree was not a "white only" tree as well.  This shouldn't be that hard to verify or discard -- there are several dozen recent graduates from Jena high school on myspace and facebook, white and black.


    Sorry, but... (none / 0) (#28)
    by LarryE on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:13:49 AM EST
    ...I checked out your link and as far as I'm concerned, anyone who references Jason Whitlock as their first source takes one huge hit on the credibility scale.

    Has anyone else noticed that it seems that every single right-winger who wants to ignore the racism involved in this case cites Jason Whitlock?


    Nuance (1.00 / 1) (#31)
    by MSimon on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 09:45:26 AM EST
    Is it possible that the people that put up the nooses thought it was about Cowboys and the blacks thought it was about race?

    Different people may ascribe different meanings to similar events, you know, based on context.

    Which goes to the mens rea of the "crime".


    As to the racism of the justice system. Why no mention of the elephant in the closet?

    The rawest deal blacks get in this society are the result of drug prohibition. And yet when the subject is brought up what do the vast majority of blacks call for? Harsher enforcement.

    Okey doak.

    Jesse Jackson in one of his more brilliant moves (in a career of mostly bad moves) called for an end to drug prohibition. He got no traction. The result is that blacks - like the Italians before them - now have a criminal reputation.

    Swell. Just swell.

    I marched in the 60s for civil rights. I went to the State Capitol to demonstrate. Seeing blacks calling for their own destruction just sickens me.

    re: Nuance (none / 0) (#39)
    by manys on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:25:15 PM EST
    Is it possible that the people that put up the nooses thought it was about Cowboys and the blacks thought it was about race?

    I've seen this a few times here and there, and while I'm not a cowboy or rodeo person, I grew up with a lot of them. There isn't much about a noose that I would ascribe to cowboys. Lassos maybe, but not nooses. And before we try to drag nuance into that distinction, the knots are completely different.


    MSimon (none / 0) (#43)
    by Aaron on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 01:51:41 PM EST
    How about addressing the topic at hand, instead of copying and pasting your blog posts which have no relevance in this discussion.

    I see the direction you're going with your argument, blame them Black folk for their poor upbringing, they bring this type of thing on themselves right?

    The only people who make such assertions in these situations are racist whites, and apologist black conservatives.

    Don't tell me let me guess, all the folks you quoted from Jenna are of the Caucasoid persuasion?

    I'm calling you on this desperately rhetorical gibberish, because I've seen it too many times not to recognize it for exactly what it is, thinly veiled right wing racist garbage.


    best source...? (none / 0) (#1)
    by selise on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 06:03:39 PM EST

    have you followed the reporting from democracy now! on this story? democracy now! (amy goodman) is the best daily news program i've found. highly recommended (not just for the jena story).

    here's their list of jena 6 news stories.

    Enough Facts (none / 0) (#2)
    by jnickens on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 07:24:35 PM EST
    Unfotunately, there are enough facts and disputed facts for the racists and apologists to muddy the waters and change the subject.

    I would give Reynolds and Althouse a pass if... (none / 0) (#3)
    by jerry on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 07:35:28 PM EST
    They didn't have a pattern of passing on cases that would tend to make it difficult for them and if they hadn't been so quick to call people that dissent with them either "objectively pro-terrorists" or victims of "Bush Derangement Syndrome."

    Both Reynolds and Althouse have this shtick of plausible deniability that enables them to make associate their blogs with outrageous smears and lies while claiming that they have no responsibility for those smears and lies.

    As near as I can tell, that is absolutely not the behavior of you or Orin Kerr.

    I think you're defending two professors/lawyers/bloggers that absolutely do not deserve your defense.

    i think (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 08:16:27 PM EST
    you're conflating a whole bunch of disconnected events, with the one event that matters: the premeditated attack, by six people, on one person. that it was premeditated may well have factored into the decision to charge them with attempted murder; you don't bash someone in the back of the head with a rock, without reasonably expecting serious consequences. or you shouldn't.

    what happened months before this attack is irrelevant. it certainly doesn't mitigate the act.

    two batteries are violent offenses, whether you think so or not. this history of violent offenses may, in part, explain the refusal to set bail. or maybe they just don't like this guy, who seems to be a walking offender.

    is the DA of jena racist? i have no idea. neither do you, or any of the 1.000's of demonstrators, the rev. sharpton, or anyone else. absent a review of his cases (which hasn't been requested), it's all speculation.

    how, exactly, was it that he looked only at the black kids in the auditorium? as you note, there's no video. were the black kids all sitting on one side, the white kids on the other, and he looked only at the black kid's side? i have no clue. if they were scattered about, perhaps they just felt he was only looking at them. maybe they felt guilty. again, i haven't a clue. that said, i've seen nothing that would lend creedence to that assertion.

    i note also that the appeals court did its job, and reversed, based on the statute. the DA had to have figured that to be the case, assuming he actually knows the law. maybe he was just arrogant enough to think they wouldn't appeal. again, i've not a clue, since we've not been made privy to his thought process.

    too many unanswered questions, for me to jump on this bandwagon. so far, what isn't in dispute is that 6 teens jumped another one, without provocation, from behind, putting him briefly in the hospital. they were arrested, charged, tried and convicted.

    a couple of other things i've read:

    1. the defense atty. was black. whether he felt intimidated by the DA, i don't know.
    2. it was an all white jury, because no black citizens responded to the summons for jury duty.

    while there may well be racial issues in jena, i'm not sure these 6 are the best wagon to hitch your horses to.

    it was a tennis sneaker not a rock (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 08:24:02 PM EST
    involved in the attack. Please check facts before posting, as I delete comments with obviously false facts so as not to have TL responsible for spreading demonstrably false statements.

    not so fast (none / 0) (#6)
    by manys on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 08:46:49 PM EST
    Based on a timeline of your choice, can you supply a little more detail about what you mean by "without provocation?"

    Agreed (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 09:15:28 PM EST
    I haven't seen a single version that doesn't refer to Barker's provocation. Some say it was racial taunting, others say it was a finger, the stories vary. The response -- the beating -- was overkill and unjustified but that doesn't mean it was unprovoked. This wasn't a random beating. Barker was beat up for his actions immediately preceding the attack.

    jeralyn, please check your facts. (none / 0) (#21)
    by cpinva on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:37:03 AM EST
    according to every press account, the boy was hit with a rock, not a sneaker. i seriously doubt a sneaker would have rendered him unconscious. do you really believe that? do you have a factual basis for claiming it was a sneaker, or just more news reports.

    again, he was hit from behind, this doesn't seem to be at all in dispute, because the medical evidence proves it. unless, your contention is they reached around him from in front, and hit him. not hardly likely. again, please supply your factual basis for this assertion.

    with respect to the claimed "provocation", again, lack of tangible evidence supplied, by you. all we seem to have is some after-the-fact claims by the defendants. the victim claims otherwise. on just a common sense basis, the victim would have to be a complete idiot (always possible, i'll grant you) to confront 6 people, alone, and start taunting them with racial epithets. i've not read of any substantiation for this claim. please cite your source.

    i don't know (and neither do you, or anyone else on this site) what actually happened, because we weren't there, and there seem to be many conflicting reports. however, two things seem to be constant:

    1. he was hit on the head, from behind, with a rock. this rendered him briefly unconscious, and put him, briefly, in the hospital. your's is the first mention of a sneaker i've seen anywhere.

    2. it was an unprovoked attack, several months after the noose incident, on someone who apparently had nothing to do with that. again, your's is the first i've heard claiming otherwise.

    do you have access to the original police reports? if so, perhaps you could post them here, i've not seen them. maybe they could shed some light on this, and clear up some of what you claim are my misstatements of fact.

    i never claimed to be 100% accurate, merely reporting what i have read/heard. if it's incorrect, it's unintentional. that said, please don't accuse me of intentionally posting inaccurate data, in the absence of your posting conclusively correct versions of it.

    thank you.



    what rock? (none / 0) (#24)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 04:08:09 AM EST
    I've not read a single press account reporting a rock.  I think you're just outright wrong about that.  Do you have a link or citation to some report stating otherwise?

    The reporting about sneakers is a little annoying, though.  From the spin some people put on it, you imagine six kids holding sneakers in their hands and whacking some kid with them.  What of course reportedly happened (I understand that even this is up for dispute, however) is that six kids (wearing sneakers) were kicking a prone kid, which is quite a bit different, and only needs to be stated clearly to illustrate the inappropriateness of this (likely disingenuous) spin.  It is quite possible for a group of people kicking a prone victim incapable of defending himself to cause mortal injuries, regardless of their footwear.  I'm not familiar with the code in Louisiana, though, so whether there is precedent for charging someone under similar circumstance with assault with a deadly weapon or not is a question I will leave to legal experts.  I would suspect not, so I'm not sure why commentators feel the need to talk around that the kid was getting kicked.


    Drifting still further from the facts (none / 0) (#26)
    by LarryE on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:02:46 AM EST
    according to every press account, the boy was hit with a rock, not a sneaker

    All you are doing is showing you have no clue what you're talking about. Just to be 100% sure I hadn't missed something, I just spent some time looking back at press reports from AP, AFP, Reuters, the BBC, and local papers including the Jena Times. Not one says anything about a rock. Not one.

    And the charge is that he was kicked with sneakers, not hit on the head with one. Get a clue.

    he was hit from behind ... the medical evidence proves it

    No, it doesn't. In fact, the ER report describes the injuries as "R periorbital bruise" - a black eye - and abrasions. Which proves nothing about the direction from which the attack came.

    Witnesses agree Barker was hit from behind but the blow - from a fist, not a rock (or a sneaker; I'm still amused you thought anyone was arguing that) - landed either on the side of his head (there were abrasions on his right ear) or wrapped around to his eye, easy enough to do.

    the victim would have to be a complete idiot ... to confront 6 people

    There is no evidence that Barker confronted six people, the assertion is he was confronting and taunting one - Bailey - and the others then became involved.

    it was an unprovoked attack

    Despite another of your unfounded claims, that was by no means a "constant" and can be presented as unquestioned fact only if you ignore both the whole string of events that preceded it and, more importantly, the testimony of those witnesses who say that Barker was racially taunting Bailey. Interesting that you go through this whole "I don't know, you don't know, nobody knows" song and dance only to suddenly be so definite about this salient question.

    Bluntly, it appears to me that you are either woefully misinformed or, more likely, woefully uninformed on this and are just winging it.


    Many corrections needed (none / 0) (#25)
    by LarryE on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 04:17:19 AM EST
    1. The events were not "disconnected." They may have been in a strict legal sense, but not in any sense dealing with day-to-day reality. They were part of a related string of events relecting racial tension that flared in the wake of the noose incident, died down for a while, and flared again. That string of incidents is indeed "relevant."

    2. The attack was not "premeditated." While witnesses differ in the details, everyone appears to agree that it arose out of a confrontation, not a premeditated plan.

    3. The "deadly weapon" was not a rock - I have no idea where you got that from - but tennis shoes.

    4. Barker was not "jumped." And while he was struck from behind, he was not struck on the back of his head.

    5. Barker was not admitted to the hospital, even briefly. He was treated at the Emergency Room and released and attended a school function that same evening, at least briefly. (There is dispute about how long he stayed.)

    6. No one has yet been convicted. Bailey's conviction was overturned and the others have yet to come to trial.

    And just what "bandwagon" is it you don't want to  get on? You seem quite ready to get on one that says "criminal blacks justly punished, all else to be forgotten."

    CNN's "reporting" (none / 0) (#8)
    by LonewackoDotCom on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 09:31:22 PM EST
    I basically started doing a fast scroll after our host said she watched CNN's hour-long report. I did not, and I don't know much about this case.

    I did, however, see a five-minute segment from someone named Mattingly, and it was extremely biased. And, it was taking advantage of (apparent) neo-Nazis printing the addresses of the perps: that was their "backlash".

    CNN couldn't find a possible backlash from non-Nazis; the only one they could find was from extremists. A real news source might have tried to find non-Nazis who might object to what appears to be a demonstration in favor of a group of six thugs attacking a victim who had nothing to do with the noose incident.

    See also comments from me ("TLB") and Steve Sailer here.

    Justification for pulling a weapon (none / 0) (#9)
    by qvarus on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 10:11:11 PM EST
    "Should Matt Windham have been charged with pulling a gun on Bailey and friends? I think so. I see no justification for that act."

    In most states, the justification for the use of deadly force is that you have a reasonable fear for your life or limb.  The sequence of events on Dec. 2 are in dispute, but if Matt Windham felt threated my a larger group whom he believed was intent on seriously hurting him (even if they were unarmed) he has a solid justification for brandishing a weapon.  If Windham were taking a defensive posture, and he were forcibly disarmed, that would in fact constitute robbery.  If this is the case, I'm absolutely sure that Windham would not prosecutable in Michigan (where I'm from).  I'm not familiar with Louisiana law, but I'd be very surpised if it were different.

    If the event were reversed, Windham were the agressor and Bailey is charged with robbery, then we are in solid miscarriage of justice territory.

    All true, but (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 11:42:49 PM EST
    if Windham felt threatened due to an event outside the store or in the parking lot and he could get to his car and inside it, why not lock the door and drive away? Why come out with a shotgun? You are only allowed to use the degree of force necessary to repel the threat, not more.  Bailey and friends were unarmed.

    I think the facts, disuputed as they are, can be equally be interpreted to show Bailey and friends felt threatened by Windham's display of force with the shotgun and took it away from him in self-defense.

    Again, I can't draw any definitive conclusion from the disputed facts in the public domain.


    Still more facts needed, unfortunately (none / 0) (#18)
    by David Nieporent on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 01:06:32 AM EST
    I've read in a few places that the shotgun was unloaded; I don't know whether that's true.

    As for using force necessary to repel the threat, I believe Louisiana has one of the relatively new stand-your-ground laws, which doesn't require one to retreat, even in a public place, from a threat.  (That only speaks to whether Windham broke the law, not whether he was foolish.)  The fact that they left after they took the gun from him rather than assaulting him is suggestive, but not proof of anything.  I can see two possible scenarios:

    1. Windham, unprovoked, threatens them with a gun.  They grab the gun in self-defense and leave the scene to avoid further trouble; later they get unjustifiably arrested for theft.

    2. Windham sees them, is outnumbered, and feels -- accurately or not -- that he's in danger.  He dashes over to his truck to get a gun to brandish to scare them off.  They grab it from him, and then for one reason or another -- they realize there are witnesses around, or they just get scared, or they've gotten a trophy from him -- take off with the gun and decide to keep it.  Later they're arrested for theft.

    As you say, we need more facts.

    The exact opposite is true (none / 0) (#15)
    by Donna Darko on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:45:25 AM EST

    AMY GOODMAN: And the incident where your son tried to get a gun from a man at a convenience store?

    CASEPTLA BAILEY: Well, that incident happened on Saturday, December 2nd, the following day, where Robert and two of his friends, Theo Shaw and Ryan Simmons, were going to Gotta-Go Grocery. And once they got there, they say Matt Windham, who is a man, not a student at Jena High School, and Matt Windham -- I guess they had come upon each other, because Matt Windham was involved the previous night with the white gentlemen that beat my son the previous night at the Fair Barn, where -- rather attacked my son at the Fair Barn. So once they came upon each other, I guess it was on.

    You know, Matt ran to his truck, from my understanding, pulled a shotgun, a sawed-off shotgun with a pistol grip, and my son wrestled with him to get the gun from him. And the other two gentlemen proceeded then to fight, and they took the gun from him and left the scene running. You know, I'm sure they were -- I know they were in fear of their lives. They were afraid that this man was going to shoot them, you know, especially in the back, running away from the scene. So they were scared. I'm sure Matt Windham was scared. You know, but he chose to run to the truck and pull the shotgun, not our children.


    that's not a fact (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:50:09 AM EST
    That's from the mother of one of the defendants  recounting what she heard. I'm trying to get to the undisputed facts.

    Thanks, Jeralyn (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jack Okie on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 10:32:36 PM EST
    I've been trying to get the facts about this for several days.  I really appreciate your research and objective analysis.  A couple of questions:

    1.  How credible to you find the explanation for the nooses as being for "horse rustlers for Cowboy day" - related to Jena playing a football team named the "Cowboys"?

    2.  Is it possible that Bell pled down in his earlier offenses, and that the original charges were more serious?  On another blog, I forget which, someone said the white residents of Jena helped Bell in these earlier incidents because he was a football star.  If they were more serious, perhaps that would explain why the DA went for attempted murder for Bell (but not explain the charge for the others).

    Again, thanks for a straightforward analysis that could have come from Joe Friday (just the facts, ma'am).  If the rest of the blogosphere (left and right) measured up to your standards, it would be heaven.

    the rodeo team (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 23, 2007 at 11:53:12 PM EST
    thanks, Jack -- much appreciated.

    On your first question, logic tells me the timing of the noose incident (being the day after a black student sat under the tree and two days after he or someone else asked at an assembly whether it was allowed) was racial intimidation. Too much of a coincidence for me. However, I've also read the three students who hung the nooses were on the rodeo team. So while a stretch, I guess it's possible.

    As to the second question, yes, it's possible Bell's charges initially were more serious and bargained down. But the prosecutor still played games by overcharging and how unfair of him to charge all seven with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit second degree murder. Particularly if he only did it to get Bell to adult court.


    Charged w/, but not prosecuted for, att. murder (none / 0) (#42)
    by David Nieporent on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 01:43:24 PM EST
    But the prosecutor still played games by overcharging and how unfair of him to charge all seven with attempted second degree murder and conspiracy to commit second degree murder. Particularly if he only did it to get Bell to adult court.

    True -- but this does gloss over the fact that the prosecutor dropped the charges against Bell down from attempted murder to aggravated battery even before trial.


    Cowboys (none / 0) (#20)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:04:25 AM EST
    Did the three boys suspended for the nooses try to make the Cowboys excuse in their defense?  I've only seen it presented online as a hypothesis from someone unrelated to the case.  Also, was Jena playing a team named the Cowboys that week?  The football schedules I've been able to find online don't look very reliable, but none of them say that Jena was playing such a team (though I believe they were listed as playing teams with related names, such as The Stampede, at or around the same time).

    Mustangs (none / 0) (#27)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:10:34 AM EST
    Was able to find this picture from the September 1 game of the Jena Giants vs. the Avoyelles Mustangs.

    The Mustangs' mascot is not a cowboy, but is, in fact, a mustang.

    The guy who came up with the "Cowboys" rationalization is, as most people thought, full of cowsh*t.


    please use html for your links (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:47:51 AM EST
    or the site gets skewed and I have to delete the entire comment. Comments can't be edited.

    Excellent post Jeralyn (none / 0) (#19)
    by Aaron on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 02:24:38 AM EST
    Thanks for putting in the research time on this story, I appreciate your efforts. The Friends of Justice link was especially helpful in confirming some assertions I had read elsewhere.

    As someone who grew up in the South, I find the "explanation" of the nooses in the tree from the anonymous Jena resident, enfiniti, to be an insult to my intelligence.  Perhaps those who hung the nooses thought they could weasel their way out of a common race-based threat, by claiming a naïve understanding of racial politics in America, but I ain't buying it, just as the African-American students of Jena didn't.

    For anyone who isn't familiar, a noose hanging from a tree in the South has long been an open threat to the black community.  For centuries such threats have been followed by the appearance of strange fruit/black folk hanging in the trees, as recently as the 1970s.  Certainly no one that I know in the south could assert, with a straight face anyway, that they were unaware of such racist connotations.  I find the idea more than insulting, I find it to be nothing more than apologist racist propaganda.

    As to the remarks by Pastor Eddie Thompson, asserting that Mychal Bell was accorded preferential treatment as a result of his star athletic status, this seems plausible, as such social distinctions are commonplace in America regardless of race. But it's also important to note that in small southern communities, such achievement by a Black athletes, is often accompanied by a certain notable degree of envy, specifically by those who have internalized feelings of inferiority with a bassist in racist stereotypes.

    Being singled out as a celebrity and a star, also means you are singled out for special scrutiny and attention by those who feel it is their job to remind you of your mortality and vulnerability, which can come from your peers as well as those in positions of authority within the community.

    In such instances you'll see some obvious differences in the way young white male athletes and young Black male athletes are treated when they display similar antisocial behavior.  Pranks, rowdiness and fighting are often dismissed as boyish high spirits when it is displayed by young white males, while the exact same type of behavior is viewed as threatening and unacceptable when the offenders are black, most usually though not exclusively by white authority figures, like the local sheriff, principles, judges and community leaders.

    Such attitudes have been documented repeatedly, even manifesting themselves within the Black community.  Black male judges for example, on average have a tendency to sentence first time black offenders more harshly than first-time white offenders.  Such tendencies speak to attitudes that are so deeply ingrained that they have effectively bridge the racial divide, rising to the level of wider societal prejudices.

    If the United States is to ever have any hope of making continued progress on issues of race, then we must be willing to face them head-on.  The Jena 6 case gives us an opportunity to expose the persistent societal inequities that unfairly burden too many Americans.

    agreed aaron (none / 0) (#23)
    by cpinva on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:51:39 AM EST
    anyone who seriously thinks the nooses were anything other than an attempt at racial intimidation has clearly been living in a cave, for the past 300 years.

    all that said, it has nothing to do with the case at hand.

    did the DA overcharge? beats me, it's a matter of opinion. however, isn't that a common practice, for purposes of negotiating leverage, on plea bargains? i think it is. isn't it possible the DA never expected a trial, assuming they would strike a plea deal prior to that? once they didn't, could he then turn around and reduce the charges?

    i ask because i don't know. i am reminded of the duke case; a DA digging himself into a hole, so invested that he can't bring himself to climb out.

    i'm hopeful the justice dept. does investigate. a subjective review might just clear the air. or not.


    One thing that bothers me (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jen M on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 06:47:57 AM EST
    (among many others of this case)

    Is the prosecutor's remarks to the high school kids.  He can destroy their lives with a stroke of a pen? What kind of thing is that to say to kids? Who he was addressing specifically doesn't matter so much to me because that just sounds like a horrible thing to say to a student body. Almost like a person drunk with power.

    And if this year is the only time he said it then why? Was there a lot of tension in the school? Or did he just say that every year. For kicks.

    authority (none / 0) (#36)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 11:57:52 AM EST
    I didn't find this news particularly shocking.  We were frequently told in middle school and high school by various authority figures (teachers, principals, visiting law enforcement officers, etc.) that they had the power to destroy our lives.  Whether or not the DA is also racist, this is the kind of thing that adults routinely say to kids in public educational institutions.

    I'm a little surprised by people who find this unusual, actually.  I went to a calm school in the midwest.  I would have imagined that at most schools the petty authoritarianism and posturing would have been worse, not better.


    we never (none / 0) (#41)
    by Jen M on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 01:21:58 PM EST
    had anything like that in my school.

    Guess it was too long ago.


    The Truth (none / 0) (#32)
    by MSimon on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 09:47:17 AM EST
    Is the prosecutor's remarks to the high school kids.  He can destroy their lives with a stroke of a pen? What kind of thing is that to say to kids?

    The truth.

    well then that makes it perfectly ok (none / 0) (#35)
    by Jen M on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 11:56:35 AM EST
    to threaten them with destroying their lives.

    Nooses (none / 0) (#33)
    by MSimon on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 09:51:47 AM EST

    The Justice Dept has investigated and found no evidence that the nooses were racially motivated.

    So there may be something to the school spirit/football rivalry thing. Or the Justice Dept. is covering up.

    Which ever narrative you prefer.

    "all the markings of a hate crime" (none / 0) (#37)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:09:39 PM EST
    Do you have a citation for this claim?  My understanding (and that described in the wikipedia entry on Jena 6) is that the federal investigation concluded that it was likely a hate crime, but chose not to prosecute because the defendants were minors.

    No direct connection (none / 0) (#38)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:17:50 PM EST
    According to this article, what was rejected was the claim that there was any direct link between the nooses (which were considered likely to be a hate crime) and the beating that occurred several months later, not that the nooses were not racially motivated.

    What event, do you suppose, (none / 0) (#45)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 02:54:19 PM EST
    triggered the nose-hanging?

    er, um, noose-hanging... (none / 0) (#46)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 02:55:09 PM EST
    And why did sitting under the tree (none / 0) (#51)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:47:20 PM EST
    become an issue?

    If it's not clear, my point - and it was not made specifically to you, you just happend to be the last person, among several, who touched on the topic in your comment - is that it takes two to tango.

    Both "sides" are at fault.


    Not clear (none / 0) (#53)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 11:20:25 PM EST
    It's not clear to me.  How could someone sitting under a tree ever be an issue, particularly one excusing racist death threats as a response?

    Please explain.


    I don't know, (none / 0) (#54)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 11:32:42 PM EST
    in my hometown HS there were two staircases that no white kids could ever use, unless they wanted to be kicked around by the black kids.

    Why did the black guys claim those staircases?

    How could climbing a staircase while white ever be an issue?

    Well because of something that the white kids had done previously to the black kids, which the white kids had done because of something the black kids had done to them, which they did due to something the white kids had done, which they did due to something the black kids did, blah blah blah blah...

    I don't expect you to understand.


    link (none / 0) (#47)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 03:47:34 PM EST
    My understanding is that Justin Barker was not one of the noose-hangers.  I could be wrong on that.  

    I was posting a follow-up to the previous poster who claimed that the Justice Department said that the nooses were not racially motivated.  What the federal investigation actually said was that they found no direct link between the nooses and the beating, but that the nooses were in fact a hate crime.  The poster was presumably confused, misreading or misremembering the former conclusion as the negation of the latter.  

    Whether there actually is a direct link that the federal investigation overlooked, that is something that one would need to establish evidentially, which is, I think, part of the point of Jeralyn's post.


    Why it might be relevant (none / 0) (#50)
    by scopemonkey on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 05:44:42 PM EST
    Might be meaningful for two reasons:

    1. If hate crimes charges were filed against the noose hangers, direct links to violent outcomes may have consequences on their trial.
    2. It might be considered a mitigating circumstance in the Jena 6 case.  Certainly lots of people believe this to be the case.

    Either way, a link would need to be shown in a court of law.

    Fact and Rumor (none / 0) (#34)
    by MSimon on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 09:57:50 AM EST
    Fact: One or two of the Six have priors for arson.

    Rumor: They are under investigation for the school arson.

    umm (none / 0) (#40)
    by manys on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 12:26:52 PM EST
    Fact: One or two of the Six have priors for arson.

    Umm, "one or two?" Methinks you're in the realm of "rumor and rumor."


    Prosecutor games (none / 0) (#52)
    by diogenes on Mon Sep 24, 2007 at 10:46:10 PM EST
    Come on...all prosecutors overcharge and then bargain down/plea bargain.  

    From what I can figure (none / 0) (#55)
    by Bob In Pacifica on Wed Sep 26, 2007 at 09:25:30 AM EST
    From what I see there is a lot of racism in Jenna. It certainly sounds like a pretty serious assault and battery occurred. It sounds like unequal justice as applied, but unequal justice for unequal crimes. Nooses, assault and battery, racist store clerks, threatening with a shotgun, etc.

    When groups are not represented in the power structure (in the instant case, when the police only enforce crimes committed by one group versus another) people will organize and extract their own justice, whether correct, lawful or not. That's why gangs keep forming in poor neighborhoods. Humans organize when threatened.

    Jenna isn't Birmingham. The right and wrong of the participants is never going to be clear enough to sway people from their positions. The media has helped to muddy the waters, but waters were already muddied.

    I personally hope that the Jenna 6 are shown leniency, that the people of Jenna with the knowledge that no one's going anywhere anytime soon sit down and start working on these issues together. Good people with good hearts appear in some of the worst situations.


    I'd also like to add here that Jesse Jackson is the most incompetent civil rights leader imaginable.

    We'll know when racism is gone (none / 0) (#56)
    by JoeSlobonavich on Wed Sep 26, 2007 at 05:40:16 PM EST
    When a boy is attacked from behind and knocked unconscious, and then stomped and kicked by six high-school athletes, and no one talks about their respective races.

    I know for a fact that in this case, if the races were reversed, not a single one of the people posting here about how the "fight" was "provoked" would be making that argument.  If six white highschool athletes attacked a black student from behind, knocked him unconscious, and then they all stomped and kicked him, the fact that they claimed he was acting uppity earlier (daring to taunt one of the white boys) would be seen not as justification, but as proof that this was a hate crime.

    Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would still be in town, of course, but they would be crying racism because the attempted murder charges were dropped -- they would want the charges reinstated with hate crime enhancements.

    If you want to see a horrible miscarriage of justice, check out the Corey Maye case.

    Corey Maye has many threads devoted to him (4.00 / 1) (#57)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Sep 26, 2007 at 05:48:07 PM EST
    here on TL: Corey Maye.

    Wow -- mixed up facts (none / 0) (#58)
    by jhml on Wed Sep 26, 2007 at 06:31:11 PM EST
    Just a few factoids:

    1. There were two nooses, not three.   They were spray painted black and gold the school colors. Very few students actually saw them as they were taken down by a teacher well before school started because of a safety factor -- some kids had been "jump swinging" on them, chinning themselves and sticking their heads through etc. The few kids who actually saw them would either have arrived a half hour early or been required to come early for a pre-school disciplinary detention that last for 40 minutes before school starts.

    2. Perversely Bell will likely receive a greater sentence if convicted as a juvenile rather than as an adult. This would be his fifth juvenile offense. Likely result will be confinement in a juvenile facility till his 21st birthday.  If convicted as an adult, juvenile offenses can not be considered in sentencing. Thus he would be treated as a first offender in the adult system and likely to receive a year of less (but would have a permanent felony conviction on his record).

    3. In the Jena Barn incident Bailey was on of five black youths that attempted to crash a birthday party. A female at the door told them they could not get in, there was a confrontation, Sloan jumped in.  Female told them to leave.  They all ledt, there was more confrontation outside the building joined in by kids (white). Eventually there was a fight, Sloan hit Bailey in the head with a beer bottle.  Several young adult whites in parking lot had been drinking (beer was not allowed in barn) and got involved.  Sloan had possinbly been drinking as well.  Sloan has a record of run ins with law.

    4. Kids + faculty uniformly deny that there was any such thing as a "white tree" prior to assembly where kid jokingly asked if he could sit under tree.  It was one of several humorous questions, met with laughter.    There had been tendency for kids to gather in semi-closed groups at various places in courtyard, just as at any school.

    5. Uninvolved witnesses (including the store owner) generally agreed with Windham's version of events at convenience store. Windham claims that he thought kids were going to rob him and that they pursued him to his vehicle.

    6. Football game after nooses was season opener with Aloyelles Mustangs (not "Cowboys"). Kids who put up nooses were members of rodeo team and said they got idea from comment about Lonesome Dove mini-series.Denied they intended racial meaning.

    7. Most blacks and many whites saw nooses as racial intimidation, but note that information about nooses was secondhand for almost everyone because few had seen them,  they were quickly taken down before school. and school did not immediately address them. Rumors abounded.

    8. Bell and Bailey were both regarded in the black community as troublemakers who had been allowed to get away with a lot because they were football stars.

    Common sense? (none / 0) (#59)
    by alyceclover on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 12:00:37 PM EST
    Over a year ago 3 teens admitted they hung nooses as a "prank". The prank was directed at the black freshman who sat under the tree the day before. Now people are trying to convince others that the nooses were part of a school football rivalry. Why did the students not say that back in August/September 2006?

    Shortly after Sept. 20, 2007 the teachers are suddenly saying they saw kids swinging and playing on the ropes. Robert Bailey said what he thought when he arrived at school on the bus and saw the ropes: KKK, lynching.

    The freshman was a "jokester"? Gee, why would he jokingly ask if he was allowed to sit under the tree? When I was in High School it would have been ludicrous for a black student to even think that he could not sit on a tree anywhere on school property, because anyone sat anywhere they wanted.

    A read of the Town Talk forum comments one hears things like "the black boys were getting uppity" "he even asked my girlfriend out on a date" and then there is (or was) the Whites Only sign on the town Barber Shop and the owner's interview saying he would cut black people's hair, but his white clients would refuse to have their hair cut there if he did.

    Hit him with a rock? Where ever did that one come from? According to, even "white" people that live in the area only 3 teens were involved with the incident with Justin.

    It is truly up to the courts to prove guilt or innocence, but this case is about IN-justice, racial bigotry, DA Walters attempt to legally lynch 6 black teens.

    There are way too many teens that attest to the fact that Justin provoked his attack gloatting over Bailey getting his ass whooped. That does not excuse the actions of Shaw and which ever other two were actually involved; it is an explanation of why a temper got lost and why 3 exploded in frustration and anger over being treated as less than human beings.