Mychal Bell, Jena 6 teen, shoots himself

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Hat Tip: By Kevin McGill, Associated Press

Hat Tip: BET.COM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One of the central figures in the 2007 Jena Six civil rights case never gave up pursuing his football career, even after his well-publicized run-ins with the law.

Mychal Bell, an 18-year-old high school running back, clung to the hope that he could earn a college football scholarship. Then came another legal scrape this Christmas Eve.

After news broke of his arrest on a shoplifting charge, Bell shot himself in the chest Monday with a .22-caliber handgun. He remained hospitalized Tuesday but police said his chest wound was not life-threatening.

“When it was broadcast that he was charged with shoplifting he just felt that the whole year had been wasted and that he had worked all of that time for nothing,” said Louis Scott, who represented Bell in the case where Bell and five other black teenagers were charged in the 2006 beating of a white classmate.

Bell’s grandmother, Rosie Simmons, and mother, Melissa Bell, told police that “Mychal had made comments over the past two days that, because of the current media attention he had because of the shoplifting arrest, he didn’t feel like he could live anymore,” Monroe Police Lt. Jeff Harris said, reading from a police report.

Bell and the other members of the “Jena Six” once faced attempted murder charges in the beating at Jena High School, in north central Louisiana’s Lasalle Parish. The charges for all the defendants were eventually reduced. But the severity of the original charges brought widespread criticism and eventually led more than 20,000 people to converge in September 2007 on the tiny town of Jena for a major civil rights march.

After being sentenced to 18 months following his guilty plea to juvenile charges, Bell moved from Jena to Monroe, where he was in foster care. He was released from state supervision on Dec. 4, said Bill Furlow, a spokesman for Reed Walters, the district attorney for LaSalle Parish.

A football star at Jena High until the Barker beating, Bell had hoped to play for Monroe’s Carroll High School, where he is on track to graduate in the spring. But the Louisiana High School Athletic Association wouldn’t grant him a fifth year of eligibility to play. Bell had spent 10 months in prison awaiting trial after his 2006 arrest in the beating case.

“He had kept his grades up and he had worked out the whole year even though he couldn’t play. He had dealt with the fact that the state athletic association would not let him play high school ball,” Bell’s lawyer, Louis Scott said Tuesday.

It was unclear whether his dreams of a college football career were realistic. According to Scott, family members believed Bell was having encouraging discussions with the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

The school’s director of football operations, Peter Martin, said in an e-mail that the school had not evaluated Bell as a prospective student-athlete and would not speculate on his potential at the college level.

Police said Bell’s Christmas Eve arrest came after he allegedly tried to steal several shirts and a pair of jeans from a department store and fled when a security guard and off-duty police officer tried to detain him. After they found him hiding under a car, Bell “swung his arms wildly” and one of his elbows struck the security guard with a glancing blow, according to a police report. He was freed on $1,300 bond.

Scott said he believed the arrest likely resulted from a misunderstanding.

“I would be very surprised if he was shoplifting,” Scott said. “I had seen him working out every day even though he knew he wasn’t going to be able to play high school football.”

Monday’s shooting was reported at 7:40 p.m. According to the police report, Bell was staying at his grandmother’s home and his mother was visiting at the time. Melissa Bell told police she and Simmons heard a gunshot coming from Mychal’s room. They found him on his bed, wounded in the chest. It was not clear Tuesday who owned the gun.

Jena 6 teen, Mychal Bell, pleads out

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Mychal Bell (file)

Hat Tip: Associated Press, ABC News

A black teenager may get out of a juvenile facility in about eight months after a deal was struck Monday with prosecutors in the beating of a white classmate that sparked a major civil rights demonstration amid cries that his treatment was unduly harsh.

Mychal Bell, now 17, originally was charged as an adult with attempted murder in the beating of Justin Barker in December 2006. That charge was reduced before a jury convicted him in June of aggravated second-degree battery. In September, that verdict was thrown out by an appeals court that said Bell should be tried as a juvenile.

Under the deal, Bell pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery in return for an 18-month sentence with credit for the 10 months he already has served. Without a deal, Bell faced being placed in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday.

Bell also must pay court costs plus $935 to the Barker family and he must testify truthfully in court if any other of his co-defendants in the Barker beating go to trial.

Bell is one of a group of teens who came to be known as the “Jena Six” as word spread of their arrests on attempted second-degree murder charges, which could have landed them in prison for decades.

“We were prepared to go forward with the trial, but you have to do what’s best for the client,” said Carol Powell Lexing, one of Bell’s attorneys. A juvenile court trial was to begin later this week.

As part of the deal, Bell will undergo counseling and begin to be reintegrated into the school system, his lawyers said.

LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said he was pleased with the deal “because Mr. Barker is beginning to get the restitution and compensation he’s due.”

Walters said he would try to work out plea deals with the other teens charged in Barker’s beating. He said his decision to work out a deal was not influenced by the intense media coverage and civil rights demonstrations.

Critics said prosecutors have treated blacks more harshly than whites in LaSalle Parish, pointing to an incident three months before the attack on Barker in which three white teens were accused of hanging nooses from a tree at the high school. The three were suspended from school but never criminally charged.

Walters has said there was no state crime to charge them with.

I am livid right now and essentially unable to comment, but I’ll have more to say later.

Mychal Bell back in jail

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Hat Tip: Black America’s Web, Associated Press

JENA, La. – (AP) A judge ordered a black teenager back to jail, deciding the fight that put him in the national spotlight violated terms of his probation for a previous conviction, his attorney said.

Mychal Bell, who along with five other black teenagers in the so-called Jena Six case is accused of beating a white classmate, had gone to juvenile court in Jena on Thursday expecting another routine hearing, said Carol Powell Lexing, one of his attorneys.

Instead, state District Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr. sentenced Bell to 18 months in jail on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property, Lexing said.

“We are definitely going to appeal this,” she said. “We’ll continue to fight.”

Bell had been hit with those charges before the Dec. 4 attack on classmate Justin Barker. Details on the previous charges, which were handled in juvenile court, were unclear.

Mauffrey, reached at his home Thursday night, had no comment.

“He’s locked up again,” Marcus Jones said of his 17-year-old son. “No bail has been set or nothing. He’s a young man who’s been thrown in jail again and again, and he just has to take it.”

After the attack on Barker, Bell was originally charged with attempted murder, but the charges were reduced and he was convicted of battery. An appeals court threw that conviction out, saying Bell should not have been tried as an adult on that charge.

Racial tensions began rising in August 2006 in Jena after a black student sat under a tree known as a gathering spot for white students. Three white students later hung nooses from the tree. They were suspended but not prosecuted.

More than 20,000 demonstrators gathered last month in the small central Louisiana town to protest what they perceive as differences in how black and white suspects are treated. The case has drawn the attention of civil rights activists including the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Sharpton reacted swiftly upon learning Bell was back in jail Thursday.

“We feel this was a cruel and unusual punishment and is a revenge by this judge for the Jena Six movement,” said Sharpton, who helped organize the protest held Sept. 20, the day Bell was originally supposed to be sentenced.

Bell’s parents were also ordered to pay all court costs and witness costs, Sharpton said.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Jones said. “I don’t know how we’re going to pay for any of this. I don’t know how we’re going to get through this.”

Bell and the other five defendants have been charged in the attack on Barker, which left him unconscious and bleeding with facial injuries. According to court testimony, he was repeatedly kicked by a group of students at the high school.

Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw were all initially charged — as adults — with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit the same. A sixth defendant was charged in the case as a juvenile.

Bell, who was 16 at the time, was convicted in June of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit that crime. LaSalle Parish prosecutor Reed Walters reduced the charges just before the trial. Since then, both of those convictions were dismissed and tossed back to juvenile court, where they now are being tried.

Charges against Bailey, 18, Jones, 19, and Shaw, 18, have been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery. Purvis, 18, has not yet been arraigned.

Mychal Bell is freed on bail

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 'Jena 6' suspect free on bail

Hat Tip: Doug Simpson, Associated Press

A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate prompted a massive civil rights protest here walked out of a courthouse Thursday after a judge ordered him freed.

Mychal Bell’s release came hours after a prosecutor confirmed he will no longer seek an adult trial for the 17-year-old. Bell, one of the teenagers known as the Jena Six, still faces trial as a juvenile in the December beating.

District Attorney Reed Walters’ decision to abandon adult charges means that Bell, who had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison on his aggravated second-degree battery conviction last month, instead could be held only until he turns 21 if he is found guilty in juvenile court.

The conviction in adult court was thrown out this month by the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, which said Bell should not have been tried as an adult on that particular charge.

Walters credited the prayers of people in this small central Louisiana town with averting a “disaster” when tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the town. Some critics of Walters considered that a slap against the peaceful marchers.

Finally, CBC steps up on the Jena 6

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Hat Tip: N.O. Times Picayune, Associated Press — The Congressional Black Caucus is asking the Justice Department to investigate possible civil rights violations in the “Jena 6″ case that sparked a massive protest in Louisiana last week.

“This shocking case has focused national and international attention on what appears to be an unbelievable example of the separate and unequal justice that was once commonplace in the Deep South,” the group of 43 lawmakers said in a letter to Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department has been closely monitoring the case of six black high school teens arrested for beating a white classmate in Jena, La. He said the department also is investigating allegations of threats against the students and their families.

“Since these investigations are ongoing, the department cannot comment any further,” Roehrkasse said.

The caucus also sent a separate letter asking Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to pardon 17-year-old Mychal Bell, the black teen convicted in adult court of aggravated second-degree battery after the charge was reduced from attempted murder.

Bell, who remains behind bars, was one of six Jena High School students arrested after a December attack on a white student, Justin Barker, and the only one to be tried.

Bell was tried as an adult and convicted of aggravated second-degree battery after the charge was reduced from attempted murder. A state appeals court recently threw out his conviction, saying he could not be tried as an adult.

District Attorney Reed Walters said Thursday that he would not appeal that decision and would let a juvenile court deal with the case.

The black lawmakers call the decision to charge Bell and his classmates as adults “an abuse of prosecutorial discretion” and claim no action was taken in a recent similar case involving a white defendant and a black victim.

“The failure to grant bail to Mychal Bell is harsh, to the point of being unconscionable, given all the facts that have come to our attention,” the lawmakers wrote to Blanco.

More than 20,000 people converged on the small town last week to protest the case, accusing local officials of prosecuting blacks more harshly than whites.
 

Mychal Bell’s bail set at $45,000

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Hat Tip: (CNN) — Bail was being posted Thursday for Mychal Bell, a black teenager accused of beating a white classmate, after a district attorney’s announcement that he would not appeal a higher court’s decision moving Bell’s case to juvenile court, according to the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Mychal Bell, 17, is accused with five others of beating Justin Barker in a school fight.

Bell’s bail was set at $45,000, Sharpton said. The paperwork was being worked out, he said, and the bail bondsman was at the courthouse.

Earlier Thursday, Bell was moved from jail to a juvenile facility, according to his attorney, Lewis Scott.

LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said his decision not to appeal was based on what he believed is best for the victim in the case.

“While I believe that a review would have merit … I believe it is in the best interest of the victim and his family not to delay this matter any further and move it to its conclusion,” Walters told reporters. Video Watch the district attorney say he won’t challenge the ruling. »

He said a march by 15,000 people last week in the small town of 3,000 residents led by civil rights leaders Sharpton and Martin Luther King III did not influence his decision.

Demonstrators were protesting how authorities handled the cases of Bell and five other teens accused of beating fellow student Justin Barker.

Many said they are angry that the students, dubbed the “Jena 6,” are being treated more harshly than three white students who hung nooses from an oak tree on high school property.

The white students were suspended from school but did not face criminal charges. The protesters say they should have been charged with a hate crime.

Bell, now 17, was the only one of the Jena 6 behind bars. His bond previously was set at $90,000.

A district judge earlier this month tossed out Bell’s conviction for conspiracy to commit second-degree battery, saying the matter should have been handled in juvenile court. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles, Louisiana, did the same with Bell’s battery conviction in mid-September.

Prosecutors originally charged all six black students accused of being involved in beating Barker with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy. Walters reduced charges against at least four of them — Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw — to battery and conspiracy.

Bryant Purvis awaits arraignment. Charges against Jesse Ray Beard, who was 14 at the time of the alleged crime, are unavailable because he’s a juvenile.

Wednesday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced that Louisiana State Police officers will protect the families of the Jena 6 and investigate any threats they have received. A white supremacist Web site posted the names and addresses of the six black teens after last week’s march, calling on followers to “let them know justice is coming.”

Thursday, the FBI said it has been made aware of allegations of threats.

“Threats are taken seriously, and as these investigations are ongoing we cannot comment further,” said Sheila Thorne of the FBI’s New Orleans, Louisiana, office.

The December 4 attack on Barker came after months of racial tension, including at least two instances of fighting in the town, sparked originally when three white teens hung nooses from an oak tree on the town’s high school grounds.

Walters has said there was no direct link between the hanging of the nooses and the schoolyard attack, and defended the prosecutions ahead of last Thursday’s peaceful march. Blanco defended the prosecutor Wednesday, saying, “He has a solid record and is highly respected among his peers.”

Walters also addressed the stress and notoriety the town has been subjected to, saying the only way he and other residents “have been able to endure the trauma that has been thrust upon us is through the prayers of the Christian people who have sent them up in this community.”

He also suggested that some kind of “disaster” was averted when thousands of marchers came to Jena last week.

“I firmly believe and am confident of the fact that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened,” Walters said.

“The Lord Jesus Christ put his influence on those people and they responded accordingly,” he said, without explaining exactly what he meant.

Soon after the district attorney spoke, a local reverend took issue with his comments.

Obviously, we are serving two different gods here,” the Rev. Donald Sidley said. “My Bible says that we should do — we should be loving, love your neighbor as yourself.

“For him to try and separate the community like he is and then using Christ Jesus to influence the people that Jesus is working on their side, well, that’s — that’s absurd. … God is god of the human race,” said Sidley, of the New Evergreen Church.

To the Jena 6: Just hold on, change is coming

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Norman Hutchin’s song, “A move of God,” has been in my head all day.

To Mychal Bell,  Robert Bailey, Jr, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and the other unnamed young brotha, just hold on, change is coming.

“I feel a breakthrough coming your way, it’s a mighty move of God, it’s gonna change your day. With signs and wonders, miracles to perform, God is gonna bless you for just holding on.”

“Just hold on, a change is coming, feel it in the air, it’s in the atmosphere. Just hold on, a change is coming, a move of God is on the way.”

“You’ve been expecting a change in your life, looking for your midnight to turn to sunshine. It’s gonna happen, you wait and see, all things are possible to them that believe.”

“Just hold on, a change is coming, feel it in the air, it’s in the atmosphere. Just hold on, a change is coming…A move of God is on the way.”

Thousands of chanting demonstrators filled the streets of this little Louisiana town Thursday. It's not about black and white. It's about right and wrong. I would like to see these young men set free,

We should have progressed past this kind of unequal treatment based on race; however, we clearly are not. The outpouring of community support in the black community and the dearth of support from others is quite telling.   Katrina became an enduring symbol of neglect and racial indifference and Jena, Louisiana has provided the nation with another.  

There is nothing particularly unique about the disproportionate felony charges meted out to these six teenage boys, this happens everyday to black children somewhere in America, as Al Sharpton has pointed out.  What is unique is the black reaction the racially discriminatory actions of the LaSalle Parish School Board and LaSalle Parish District Attorney provoked.    

Today’s rally was amazing in its genesis and scale, as the song above says, “It’s a mighty move of God, it’s gonna change your day.” I feel confident in predicting that the charges against all six young men will be dropped.  

Praise God for Michael Baisden, Tom Joyner, Howard Witt, Amy Goodman, Roland Martin, Rev.Al, Rev. Jackson, Color of Change, the black blogosphere, and for the many black college students and other concerned persons who raised the alarm to inform the community when it was needed.  

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, on hand for the day’s events, told CNN’s Kyra Phillips that the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to subpoena the LaSalle Parish District Attorney to Washington to explain his conduct and the President himself said that the Justice Department is monitoring this case.  Despite protestations to the contrary, there is a valid reason why Tina Jones, mother of Purvis Bryant, believes that the D.A. is “so adamant about destroying these kids lives.”  I would love to hear his explanation of how a tennis shoe becomes a deadly weapon.   

The idea of a 21st century civil rights movement which focuses on the disproportionate punishment of people of color in the criminal justice system warms my heart.  That’s something that this skeptical brotha can get with enthusiastically.  Much remains to be done and it is not simply a local issue.   I hope that that Congresswoman Waters and Congressman Conyers grasp that a comprehensive solution which addresses the lack of resources for indigent defense is at the root of the harsh and disproportionate treatment that our children and adults face nationwide. 

 

Charges against Mychal Bell overturned in Jena 6 case

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Hat Tip: Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press, USA Today 

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 court.

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, La., 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 Hammond.

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 said.

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.

The Jena 6 Movement

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Hat Tip: by Marisol Bello, USA Today

A grass-roots movement is spreading across black America in support of six black high school students charged with attempted murder for beating a white classmate in the small Louisiana town of Jena.

On black radio, black college campuses and websites from YouTube to Facebook, the young men known as the Jena 6 are being held up as symbols of unequal and unfair treatment of blacks in a case that evokes the Deep South’s Jim Crow era, complete with nooses hanging from a tree.

“People are fed up,” says Esther Iverem, 47, a Washington, D.C., writer who runs a website called Seeingblack.com, which has featured articles about the Jena 6. “It’s another case of young black men railroaded unjustly. We do not want to see this happen to young boys who got involved in a school fight.”

Tenisha Wilkerson, 20, of Chicago, posted a page on Facebook supporting the Jena 6. It has attracted 35,000 members.

“Why is this kind of thing still going on?” she asks.

Symbolism evokes outrage

The events in Jena have caught the attention of national civil rights activists. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III have marched on Jena in protest.

“The case plays to the fears of many blacks,” Sharpton says. “You hear the stories from your parents and grandparents, but you never thought it would happen in 2007. I think what resonates in the black community is that this is so mindful of pre-1960 America.”

For a year, Jena (pronounced JEEN-uh), a poor mining community of 3,000 people, has been embroiled in racial tensions pitting the black community against white school officials and a white prosecutor. It began last August when a black student asked at an assembly if black students could sit under a tree where white students usually sat. The next day, two nooses hung from the tree.

Black parents were outraged by the symbolism, recalling the mob lynchings of black men. They complained to school officials. District superintendent Roy Breithaupt and the school board gave three-day suspensions to the white students who hung the nooses, overruling the recommendation of then-principal Scott Windham that the students be expelled.

Breithaupt and current principal Glen Joiner did not return calls for comment.

In November, an unknown arsonist burned down part of the high school.

Over the next three days, fights erupted between black and white students on and off school grounds. Police arrested a white man for punching a black teen. He pleaded guilty to simple battery.

The skirmishes culminated with a fight in which the six black teens, star players on Jena’s champion football team, were charged as adults with attempted murder. The white student they’re accused of beating, Justin Barker, 17, was knocked unconscious and suffered cuts and bruises. He was treated at an emergency room but not hospitalized.

Mychal Bell, 17, was convicted in May of a reduced charge, aggravated second-degree battery, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Since then, charges against two youths have been reduced.

Reed Walters, the LaSalle Parish prosecutor who brought the charges, did not return calls for comment.

The anger fueled by the case shows no sign of letting up. More than 1,500 people, including California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, rallied at Howard University in Washington on Wednesday. Rallies are planned in Chicago and Boston.

Civil rights groups, including the NAACP and Friends of Justice, plan to rally at the Jena courthouse on Sept. 20, the scheduled date of Bell’s sentencing. Their websites anticipate busloads of marchers from across the country.

The black students’ supporters say the white teens in Jena were not punished as severely as the blacks.

“The question here has always been about fairness and equal justice,” says Tony Brown, a Louisiana radio host. “The bottom line is that there is a two-tiered judicial system. If you’re black, they want to lock you up and throw away the keys. If you’re white, you get a slap on the wrist and get to go home with your parents.”

He points to a case in nearby Bunkie, La., in which three white teens were charged this spring with the minor crime of battery for beating a white teen, who spent three days in the hospital for brain swelling and bleeding.

The case of the Jena 6 has launched “a modern-day civil rights movement,” Brown says.

Tired of the attention

Blacks are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. A 2007 study by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency found that blacks are 17% of the nation’s juvenile population, but 28% of juveniles arrested are black.

“I don’t think you grow up black and think this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” says Maliza Kalenza, 19, a Howard University sophomore from Minneapolis.

Donald Washington, the U.S. attorney for Louisiana’s Western District, says his office investigated the events in Jena but did not find evidence to support a criminal case in the noose hangings. He says black students had sat under the tree where the nooses were hung, too, and he found no evidence that the noose incident led to the fights three months later.

The tree was cut down this summer.

Washington’s office is reviewing the history of Jena school district punishments of black and white students but so far has found nothing inappropriate.

Some people in Jena don’t appreciate the attention.

School board member Billy Fowler says the year’s events have been blown out of proportion. On the other hand, he says, in the unlikely event that another student hung a noose, the incident would be taken more seriously. He also notes that some of the original charges against the six teens, which he says were excessive, were reduced.

“I feel like my town has been raked over unmercifully,” Fowler says. “I’m tired of hearing how racist my town is and it’s just not so. … And the outsiders are not helping any with this.”