Hate Crimes and the Jena Six | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hate Crimes and the Jena Six

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2007 at 4:30 PM

There's a major civil rights protest today in Jena, Louisiana, over a case involving six black high school students who beat up a white teen last December. Five of the students were initially charged as adults with attempted murder; those charges were later reduced. Only one case of the five has been tried so far. Mychal Bell was convicted of aggravated assault, but an appeals court overturned that conviction last week on the ruling that Bell, who was 16 at the time of the incident, should not have been tried as an adult. Bell is still in jail, though, until Reed Walters, the LaSalle Parish, LA, district attorney, decides whether to retry Bell under the original attempted murder charge. (He was unable to meet his $90,000 bail, and has been incarcerated since December.) The other four students have yet to be tried; as they were all at least 17 at the time of the incident, they can be still be tried as adults under Louisiana state law.

Protesters see Walters' charges as racially motivated, especially considering that didn't bring any charges in a separate incident of racial tension. In August of last year, a black student at a high school assembly asked if he could sit under a tree that was traditionally reserved for white students. The assistant principal said yes. The next day, several nooses were hung in the tree. The principal suspended three students involved, but there were no charges filed in the incident. Reed says that he didn't have a case to bring under Louisiana law. Some people in the town think that the Feds should have brought hate-crime charges.

Was that a legal possibility? Based on what I can tell from the outline of the incidents, I think it was. 18 USC 241--part of the U.S. Code governing civil rights--says that it is "unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same)." Clint Winn, an Arkansan, was convicted under this law for cross-burning in 1999. It's a weird law because it requires a conspiracy--an independent actor couldn't be convicted under it--but there appears to have been three students involved, so that part is covered. And a noose seems to be enough to intimidate, considering its symbolic currency and the black student's public request about the tree. Perhaps if the students who were suspended were juveniles they couldn't be convicted under the statute--that I don't know. If there are any lawyers who want to weigh in on this, feel free.

In any case, expect to be hearing more about the Jena Six in the media in the coming weeks. Getting Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton is one thing, but if you want to turn it up a notch, bring in David Bowie.



Comments (128)

Showing 1-50 of 128

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-50 of 128

Add a comment

More by John C. Williams

Readers also liked…

  • Among the last words from Kenneth Williams: 'Finger Lickin' Good Fried Chicken'

    What's purported to be a final-words essay from condemned prisoner Kenneth Williams was distributed today by Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist in Arkansas.  He reflects on his execution, his victims, reactions of inmates and big servings of fried chicken, which he says are given to all inmates on execution days.
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • French Hill votes against disaster aid to Puerto Rico

    Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill alone among Arkansas's House delegation voted last week against a measure that provided $36.5 billion in disaster aid, a portion  for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico as well as money for wildfire response and to support the flood insurance program.
    • Oct 14, 2017
  • Presidential thriller, co-author Bill Clinton, coming to bookstores in 2018

    June 2018 is the expected publication date for a novel collaboration by former President Bill Clinton and crime writer James Patterson.
    • May 9, 2017


  • Arkansas vs Ole Miss at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. After leading for much of the game, Arkansas lost 37-33 when Ole Miss scored the game winning Touchdown with less that 2 minutes left. 
  • Margaret Clark Adventure Park
    New sculptures, preschoolers play area dedicated in Riverfront Park in Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation