Saturday, September 15, 2007

Jena Louisiana conviction tossed

Teen's conviction tossed in La. beating

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press Writer
Fri Sep 14, 6:52 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - A state appeals court on Friday threw out
the only remaining conviction against one of the black
teenagers accused in the beating of a white schoolmate
in the racially tense north Louisiana town of Jena.

Mychal Bell, 17, should not have been tried as an adult,
the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said in tossing
his conviction on aggravated battery, for which he was
to have been sentenced Thursday. He could have gotten 15
years in prison.

His conspiracy conviction in the December beating of
student Justin Barker was already thrown out by another

Bell, who was 16 at the time of the beating, and four
others were originally charged with attempted second-
degree murder. Those charges brought widespread
criticism that blacks were being treated more harshly
than whites after racial confrontations and fights at
Jena High School.

Bell's attorney Louis Scott said he didn't know whether
his client, whose bond was set at $90,000, would get out
of jail immediately.

"We don't know what approach the prosecution is going to
take -- whether they will re-charge him, where he would
have to be subjected to bail all over again or not,"
Scott said.

Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson
and Al Sharpton, had been planning a rally in support of
the teens for the day Bell was to have been sentenced.

"Although there will not be a court hearing, we still
intend to have a major rally for the Jena Six and now
hopefully Mychal Bell will join us," Sharpton said in an
e-mailed statement.

Said Jackson: "The pressure must continue until all six
boys are set free and sent to school, not to jail."

Jena is a mostly white town where racial animosity
flared about a year ago when a black student sat under a
tree that was a traditional gathering place for whites.
A day later, three nooses were found hanging from the
tree. There followed reports of racial fights at the
school, culminating in the December attack on Barker.

The reversal of Bell's conviction will not affect four
other teenagers also charged as adults, because they
were 17 years old at the time of the fight and no longer
considered juveniles, said attorney George Tucker of

Prosecutors have the option of appealing to the state
Supreme Court. District Attorney Reed Walters did not
return a call Friday.

Judge J.P. Mauffray had thrown out Bell's conspiracy
conviction, saying it was not a charge on which a
juvenile may be tried as an adult. But he had let the
battery conviction stand, saying Bell could be tried in
adult court because the charge was among lesser charges
included in the original attempted murder charge.

Teenagers can be tried as adults in Louisiana for some
violent crimes, including attempted murder, but
aggravated battery is not one of those crimes, the court

Defense lawyers had argued that the aggravated battery
case should not have been tried in adult court once the
attempted murder charge was reduced.

The case "remains exclusively in juvenile court," the
Third Circuit ruled.

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