This issue kind of slid under my radar until the protests on Thursday and I didn't understand what exactly it was about but I have read up a bit on the case now.
Summary- The students of Jena High School apparently self-segregated. In August of last year a black student asked the principle if he was allowed to sit in the white area under a shade tree known as the "white tree". The principle said of course and the student and some friends did. The next day three nooses appeared in the tree.
Most people think think the nooses were a reference to lynching and an attempt to intimidate the black students. Some however claim they were in regards to a high school football game and were to increase spirit. I find that kind of hard to believe given that I have seen no reference of similar "spirit displays" prior to this time. Others claim it was just a prank. If so it was a stupid one.
The black students were upset about what they saw as hate motivated display (rightly in my opinion) and complained to the principle who investigated, identified a group of students responsible, and recommended expulsion. The school board disagreed and suspended the students for 3 days. This lead to some complaints and protests, which the school board refused to listen to. The suspension vs. expulsion was probably fair given that up to this point no one has been harmed or actually threatened with harm, but refusing to listen to the protests was stupid mistake one.
Meanwhile between the time of the noose incident and the attempt to address the school board there were fights on the campus and eventually the cops had to set up patrols in the halls. The police asked the DA to address the students and in that address he made a statement on the order of "I can end your life with a stroke of this pen" The black students believed it was a threat against them. Another claim I find hard to believe but I'm not a 15 year old black kid. Stupid mistake 2. It appears to have just exacerbated the situation.
As this was going on the US attorney investigated and said that while he thought that this would qualify as a hate crime under federal law there are no provisions in that law to charge juveniles. It appears that this was unsatisfactory to some people. I guess they just want him to make up the law as he goes rather than actually following it.
This was followed two months later by a fight when a group of black students attempted to crash a private party. They were refused entry and a white guy got into a fight with them. Both they and the white man were asked to leave and as they did another fight broke out between a group of whites and the group of blacks.
The only person arrested and charged (and convicted) in this incident was a white. One of the blacks involved later claimed a beer bottle was broken over his head but that claim isn't reflected in police reports or in any record of medical treatment. This student, Robert Bailey Jr. was later involved in the attack on Justin Barker which led to the current protests.
The day after the fight at the party there was another incident at a convenience store. A group of blacks including Robert Bailey were involved in a fight with a white student, who had been at the party, who ended up pulling a shotgun. The blacks wrestled the gun away from him. Apparently everyone agrees on that much.
The white guy says that he was at the store and heard someone say something like "hey we've got action" followed by Bailey and his friends running towards him. He says
he then ran to his truck and pulled out his shotgun which was then taken from him.
Bailey and his friends say they were walking out of the store and the white student pulled the shotgun on them. They wrestled and took the gun from him and ran away.
When the police interviewed witnesses versions apparently didn't match. The police made kind of a consensus report and arrested Bailey for Theft of a firearm, 2nd degree robbery, and disturbing the peace. The student who originally brandished the shot gun wasn't charged.
Stupid mistake 3? I'm not sure. If the police interviewed all the witnesses and thought the white student was acting in self defense then no, but they need to really make clear why they felt that.
Now we get to the actual incident at the heart of this. The attack on Justin Barker. Three days after the party and two days after the convenience store incident a group of students including Robert Bailey Jr. attacked Justin Barker. Barker was hit from behind and knocked unconscious then kicked repeatedly. He was treated at the hospital for a concussion and other minor injuries. He was released and attended a ring ceremony at his high school but according to him had to leave early because of pain. He claims to still have vision problem and headaches related to the beating. Bailey and others claim the beating was in response to Barker taunting him about the fight the previous Friday. Barker denies saying anything.
After the beating six students were arrested and eventually charged with attempted 2nd degree murder. One student Michael Bell who has a history of violent crimes was tried as an adult and sentenced for aggravated 2nd degree battery and attempted 2nd degree battery. These charges were later thrown out on appeal on the grounds Bell shouldn't have been tried as an adult.
Complaints about the treatment of the Jena 6 include the charge of attempted 2nd degree murder, charging the students as adults, and an all white jury.
On the murder charge. I fully agree with it. It was 6 to 1, the victim was hit from behind and Barker was unconscious as they continued kicking him. Yeah that's attempted murder.
As for charging the students as adults - Bell had already been convicted of violent crimes four times previously, the others were over 17. At some point people have to be held responsible for their actions.
On the all white jury - apparently only 1/3 of those summoned for jury duty showed up. This lead to an all white jury pool. It wasn't a decision by the prosecutor but a result of people avoiding their civic responsibility.
In my opinion the real injustice here is Robert Bailey Jr. isn't going to jail for a much longer time. From what I have read it appears he was the main instigator of the later actions in this story. He and his friends just appear to be wandering the streets of Jena look for fights. Notice too that it is always a group of them (Bailey and friends) versus a lone person. Injustice 2 is that the school board which mishandled this initially is till in power.
There were other mistakes made but nothing that justifies a 6 on 1 beating of a person who was apparently wasn't involved in any of this up to this point.
So I say don't free the Jena 6! Lock them up until they are too old and grey to hurt anybody else.
Instapundit links to a site called The Field Negro that is apparently upset that more prominent progressives aren't aggressively supporting the Jena 6. I personally think it is because they realize defending thugs is a losing proposition.
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