I haven't looked carefully into this case, which I was led to believe reflected some sort of To Kill a Mockingbird expression of Southern racism. The few news accounts that I have seen showed a bunch of nooses hung in a tree--with the implication that these were part of how the white power structure was terrorizing blacks in this little town. But now I see this summary of the case by a black columnist with the Kansas City Star, and I am disappointed (but not surprised) at how the mainstream news media have played this one:
Reed Walters, the Jena district attorney, is being accused of racism because he didn’t show Bell compassion when the teenager was brought before the court for the third time on assault charges in a two-year span.
Where was our compassion long before Bell got into this kind of trouble?
That’s the question that needed to be asked in Jena and across the country on Thursday. But it wasn’t asked because everyone has been lied to about what really transpired in the small southern town.
There was no “schoolyard fight” as a result of nooses being hung on a whites-only tree.
Justin Barker, the white victim, was cold-cocked from behind, knocked unconscious and stomped by six black athletes. Barker, luckily, sustained no life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital three hours after the attack.
A black U.S. attorney, Don Washington, investigated the “Jena Six” case and concluded that the attack on Barker had absolutely nothing to do with the noose-hanging incident three months before. The nooses and two off-campus incidents were tied to Barker’s assault by people wanting to gain sympathy for the “Jena Six” in reaction to Walters’ extreme charges of attempted murder.
Much has been written about Bell’s trial, the six-person all-white jury that convicted him of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and the clueless public defender who called no witnesses and offered no defense. It is rarely mentioned that no black people responded to the jury summonses and that Bell’s public defender was black.