December 4, 2007

Jena 6 Odd Couple: Mychal Bell and Reed Walters Agree to Plea Deal

Drumbeats from Howard Witt with some great news on the Jena Six case. It appears that the endgame is coming to Jena, LA. Mychal Bell, 17, agreed to a plea bargain with LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters that sharply reduced the charges against him. Walters was the foolish law enforcement official who made the original decision to charge the Jena 6 with attempted murder for beating a white youth.

Walters accepted guilty plea to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery, with a sentence of 18 months and credit for time he has served in jail over the last year.

District Judge J.P. Mauffray approved the plea agreement Monday afternoon, just three days before Bell's trial in juvenile court was to have begun. It appears that both the Jena legal system and the other Jena Six families are in plea negotiations that could bring a conclusion to a controversial case that drew more than 20,000 civil rights protesters to Jena in September and earned the town a portrayal in the national media as a racist backwater.

Villagers have been following this story well before the mainstream media learned about it. It was national pressure from groups like The AfroSpear and others last spring that caused Walters to back away from attempted murder charges. Walter was hard-headed when he tried Bell on those charges as an adult in June and won a conviction, but a state appeals court reversed the verdict in September, ruling that Bell should have been prosecuted as a juvenile.

Since then, Walters has come under growing political pressure to conclude the Jena 6 cases. Local leaders had been dreading a drawn-out series of criminal trials that would have kept Jena in the spotlight throughout 2008. And Louisiana's outgoing governor, Kathleen Blanco, directly pressed Walters in September not to pursue an appeal of the decision that struck down Bell's adult conviction.

Walters said in a statement Monday that he hopes to have the remaining Jena 6 cases resolved "early next year."

"A trial would be very bad for the town, very bad for Reed Walters, very bad for anybody in Jena associated with the process, and it could turn out very bad for the defendants as well," said Alan Bean, head of a small civil rights group called Friends of Justice who was the first activist to call attention to the Jena case. "It had the potential for being a perfect storm in which everybody lost."

Parents on both sides of the case agreed.

"If the district attorney makes an offer to us and my son doesn't have to do any jail time, that would be fine," said Tina Jones, who insists that her son, Jena 6 defendant Bryant Purvis, was not involved in the school attack. "I'm ready to get this all over with."

Plea bargains "would be the best solution, as long as they don't get away with no punishment at all," said David Barker, father of Justin Barker, the school beating victim. "This case has taken its toll on everybody. Justin has ulcers now. Letting it drag on for years would just be additional stress for him."

Bell's attorneys said they agreed to the plea bargain to spare the former high school football star the danger of being convicted of more serious charges and also to win early release from juvenile custody. Mychal Bell will get credit for the nine months he spent in jail while awaiting trial. His attorneys said he could be released by June.
When this is over I hope that the Jena Six young people take a lesson from the sad story of Rodney King.


maryt/theteach said...

That's great, Villager!

Unknown said...

Teach - Yes, hopefully, those young men can get their lives together and move forward in a better way than they did on the day of the fight. Hopefully, Reed Walters and the city of Jena will be more inclusive in the future than they were when the so-called white tree was allowed to flourish on the high school campus.

Mes Deux Cents said...


So now I guess the Jena six may have more time to appear on the red carpet.

2008 Grammy's here they come!

(Sorry I couldn't resist!)

Unknown said...

Mes Deux Cents - Yeah, that was a very dumb move by those two students. You wonder why their parents or guardians didn't keep them from being so foolish while this case was still hanging over their heads.

Anonymous said...

First of all the Jena 6 case is
a reminder and rude awakening for
people who are unaware that
prejudice and racism still exists
post Civil Rights Era of the 60's.
It is ashame that we are in
a new century and ignorance of
not respecting someone based on
the color of their skin is still
accepted by White America and
minorities who are not African
American or Carribean. If you
trace history in the library and
museum, you will see that everyone
comes from Black people so wake
the hell up and educate yourselves.
I also hold the older Black people
accountable who don't teach young
adults of the hip hop generation
(1965-84) and the children coming up today in the communities across
this country. It is time for a
serious improvement of coming together as a human family the
way Dr.King talked about.
The Creator, Yahweh says he "Will
heal the land if we turn from our
wicked ways". Love yourself and
love each other. Power to the

*This is a Black History moment
in Black History Month.

Unknown said...

Anon - Thank you for your strong reminder on the importance of us respecting humanity and dignity and respect for one another.