Civil Rights

Justice in Jena: Mychal Bell Released

A controversial defendant at the heart of the Jena 6 case whose plight helped ignite a massive civil rights protest in a tiny Louisiana town last week has just been released from prison.

Mychal Bell, 17, who is now expected to face juvenile charges in a prosecution over an alleged schoolyard attack on a classmate by Bell and five others, was released today on bail, according to Web site reports by stations in New Orleans and Shreveport. He was originally charged as an adult with attempted murder–and convicted as an adult on lesser charges–in a prosecution that sparked national outrage due to what many perceived as its racist implications.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has been asked by the Congressional Black Caucus to investigate possible civil rights violations in Jena and has sent representatives to Louisiana to talk with authorities there, reports the Associated Press.

As discussed in earlier posts, the so-called Jena 6 prosecution has been a catalyst for what some are calling a new 21st century civil rights movement:

Many see the Jena Six case as emblematic of a racist criminal justice system, which sparked a national protest march last week on the tiny Louisiana town—and a white backlash. Adding fuel to the fire, although a state appeals court reversed Bell’s conviction earlier this month, saying he should have been tried as a juvenile, he remained in prison as the prosecution vowed to appeal the appellate ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Only yesterday did officials back down and say they would try Bell again as a juvenile.

On a related topic, another recent post discusses a national statistical study showing striking differences in the way black students are disciplined in school.

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