I meant to include this in the previous post, hence the “Other Good News…” title. Oh well. Life distracts me sometimes.
Mychal Bell, the only one of the Jena 6 to remain in prison, was freed yesterday on reduced bond after the district attorney gave up his quest to try the teenager as an adult. Bell, who was 16 at the time of his arrest, was tried and convicted of aggravated battery as an adult and could have faced 15 years in prison, but the conviction was overturned by the Circuit Court of Appeals because of his age. He still faces retrial as a juvenile and could be held till he turns 21 if convicted.
This seems like a reasonable outcome to me. Yes, I know he had a juvenile record, which apparently influenced the DA’s decision to try him as an adult. How I know is problematic; aren’t juvenile records supposed to be sealed? The initial attempted murder charges smacked of gross overreaction, and the disparity between those charges and the ones faced by a white kid who jumped and beat up a black kid at an off-campus party sure smelled like racism. The DA’s insistence on trying Bell as an adult just ended up wasting resources.
I’m sure this won’t be the end of the controversy. Four teenagers still face charges that could put them away for 15 years and, to my mind, astronomically increase the chances that they’ll end up as adult criminals after they’re released. Prison doesn’t exactly teach young people how to function as responsible citizens in the real world. One of them has reportedly posted stupid pictures of himself acting like a little twerp at his MySpace page (the pictures have since been removed). A relative says they’re “not worried” about the pictures. They should be. These kids weren’t treated fairly, but that doesn’t make them heroes.
The victim, who was reportedly taunting and using racial slurs just before the attack, will likely learn nothing of value. His worst racist tendencies have been validated, and he, along with the town’s mayor, is now becoming a pawn of the white supremacist movement, which is doing everything it can to further exacerbate tensions and incite further violence in Jena. And making much of the MySpace pictures, to the accompaniment of foaming-at-the-mouth racial slurs (no, I won’t link to their nastiness).
As for the kids who hung the nooses, I’d like to think that their school suspension was followed by more sustained punishment at home, and that someone undertook to explain to them just why their actions were so offensive and threatening. I’d like to think they didn’t already know. I’m afraid I’m wrong.
At least Mychal Bell is home with his family tonight after 10 months in jail, and that’s as a good thing.