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Does Equal Protection Under The Law Exist in Louisiana?

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In the past months, the story of the “Jena six” has received fleeting national attention. These six Louisiana black boys have spent months trapped in a nightmare that has gotten progressively worse. One boy faces a possible sentence of 22 years of prison, while the others face 100 years in prison for attempted murder. Their crime, if it can be called that, was defending themselves in what amounts to a schoolyard fight.

This tragic story began last September, in the small town of Jena, Louisiana when a lone black student asked the school if he could sit underneath a tree in the schoolyard that had been the exclusive domain of white students. The next day, three nooses were hanging from the tree’s branches as a warning to the black students not to encroach on this territory. When the black students ignored the threat and sat under the tree, they were greeted not by white students, but by a surly district attorney who ordered them to leave.

In the next months, the black students became the targets of intimidation and violence. The most harrowing incident involved a white man threatening three black boys with a sawed-off shotgun. The kids were able to wrestle the shotgun away, and flee from the scene. The tensions between the black and white students boiled over on December 4 when a fight broke out at the high school. One white student was injured, and six black students were arrested and charged with second degree attempted murder.

The first student tried, Mychal Bell had the charge dropped to aggravated battery, which requires a dangerous weapon. The weapon in question was not a gun or a knife, but a tennis shoe. Bell’s lawyer called no witnesses on his behalf, and he was convicted by an all-white jury on charges that are charitably described as specious. This farce of a trial is something you’d expect in To Kill a Mocking Bird. It’s eerily reminiscent of Stalin’s show trials where the defendant never really had a chance at acquittal, and the notion of a fair proceeding was laughable.

The Prosecutor was far from an even-handed officer of the court. From day one, he was on an inexplicable vendetta against those black students. While the black students were exercising their right to sit where they wanted, the prosecutor bragged that he could, “end your lives with the stroke of a pen.” At the trial, he seemed determined to mete out the most draconian sentence possible on his hapless victims. Somehow, I doubt that the prosecutor would have tried to lock a white kid away for life if it had been a black student who had been injured. It is profoundly troubling that this David Duke brand of justice is still alive in the 21st century.

The implications of this racially-tinged episode are just as disconcerting. It is a stark reminder that our justice system is still far from color-blind. A kid from an inner city who’s caught with the “wrong” kind of cocaine faces a mandatory sentence of five years in prison and the prospect of a ruined life afterwards. Meanwhile, a kid in the suburbs who does the “right” type of cocaine probably won’t be caught in the first place, but if he is, can usually count on probation or some other slap on the wrist. It all means that blacks are 80% of those prosecuted for drug offenses even though 2/3 of all cocaine users are white or Hispanic. We live in an era when Scooter Libby, who was convicted of perjuring himself and hindering a federal investigation gets no jail time, while a young black man, Marcus Dixon, was consigned to rot in prison for 10 years because he had consensual sex with his white girlfriend.

The Senate is in the midst of investigating the sentences imposed on two border patrol guards convicted of shooting a drug dealer as he fled. If it is right to free two men who are demonstrably guilty, circumstances notwithstanding, of the crime for which they were convicted, then it is only just for someone in power, either in Louisiana, or in the federal government to help restore the lives of six boys whose lives have been hijacked by an arbitrary and capricious justice process. I’m not holding my breath.

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About Marcus Alexander Gadson

  • Doug Hunter

    This article is a load of race baiting bullshit.

    A group of black kids jumped a white one and continued kicking and beating him after knocking him unconscious, that’s a crime. End of story.

  • eddie howard jr.

    Once again, the point is proven that education does`nt end with the ringing of the school bell. It starts with the parents and in this case poor ones who obviously have the attitude that it is there right, rather than a privledge to be and have. The racist attitude and prejudice baton has once again been passed. Lets not forget the supposed higher educated superintendent who allows a very insensitive gesture to be thought of as a simple prank..

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    Doug, clearly there’s more to the story than just the final fight.

    However, since the article includes not a single source link, I’m disinclined to take it seriously or believe that it’s at all objective.

    Dave

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    i’ve got to agree…cite sources to the incident, the trial…the court records…ANYthing to aid in substantiating the Article

    taken at face value, it’s pretty damning…but without having ANY facts it’s impossible to judge veracity or accuracy

    Excelsior?

  • Publius

    Here is a link to an article about the matter. The author has all of his facts correct.

    This article is meant to be an opinion piece,not a feature journalist piece. When was the last time you saw footnotes or bibliographies in a washington post editorial? It is okay to disagree witht the opinions expressed here, but do not impune the author.

  • Catilline

    Here is another link.

    It once again proves that the author is right. Furthermore, I have to agree with everything Publius said.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Whilst I agree with Publius that the author of this opinion piece had every right to post this article as is, and that as written the case seems a particularly heinous double standard abuse of power, I can’t help but feel a tad concerned that the comments made by Publius and Catilline came from the same IP address, which detracts from the effectiveness somewhat…

  • Dr Dreadful

    Just type “Jena Six” into Google and you’ll find any number of articles about the case.

    Yes, some links would have been nice, but come on, people. Do we have to spoonfeed you everything?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer.php?name=gonzo%20marx gonzo marx

    ok…NOT meaning to impugn the Author of this Article at all..was merely stating that even for an op-ed piece here on the Net, you should link to some sources when possible in order for the Reader to gather as much as they can about the article’s content itself…just my Opinion on the matter…

    digging around i have indeed found quite a few links on the matter…still digging for court records and the like, but it can say it does appear the Prosecutor in this case has gone way too far in the charges brought against these people

    should there be charges of assault? – it appears yes is the correct answer here…did 6 kids beat up one kid?…so it seems by everything i’ve found so far

    should those six kids be charged with 2nd degree attempted murder? – no…assault appears to be the proper charge…no allegations of weapons used, the victim showed up at a social engagement later that same day by the reports

    so, a 6 on one assault should get you arrested and tried in a court…but this appears far from attempted murder in any what,shape or form…

    what the hell is with the defense attorney here? so far i see one conviction, with NO sentence yet…but my Question is what defense attorney would have gone with the selected Jury, or allowed the heavier charges of 2nd degree murder to go unchallenged?

    something is definitely not right here, exactly what i am not certain of…but will continue to try and find court records and such to see what’s missing

    meanwhile..best advice is for those people to get better lawyers and beat the shit out of these charges…and the DA (legally speaking)

    Excelsior?

  • thecourt

    To me, this is all about equality. I looked up a few articles and given the fact that this all started with nooses hanging from a tree – with no sensitivity training (at least it wasn’t reported), I can understand the racial tensions. The six boys should be tried for assult, but not attempted murder. But the other cases in this situation are unbelievable. A white man pulls a gun on black boys, the black boys wrestle the gun away and they get charged for theft and assault???? A white guy beats up a black guy and there are assault charged, but a black guy beats up a white guy and it is attempted murder? Where is the equality in that?

    And for the record, the bloggers comment about cocaine is true. In some states, crack cocaine has a mandatory jail sentence and powder cocaine will get you parole. I never understood that, because it is still cocaine – regardless of what color you are.

  • http://www.vnnforum.com WD

    Re: Dr. Duke

    Exposing the liars is all that matters. If you don’t listen to all sides, you are not seeking truth. Dr. David Duke’s world wide best selling book “Jewish Supremacism” is free to download at The Pirate Bay in MP3 format. Dr. Duke narrates this copy of his book during the recent Israeli war on Lebanon and this timely commentary is extremely insightful. The Jews have much to answer for.

    NO war for Israel!

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I assume you’re recommending the spoken version because most of Duke’s followers are illiterate?

    Dave

  • Dr Dreadful

    Well, they certainly can’t spell ‘non sequitur’…

  • STM

    What does this have to do with gardening implements?

  • Dr Dreadful

    Mister Australia Person, Doc not understand. You please to explain comment of yourself. Please. Thank you. Also, please send money to me in Nigeria so you share in billions of dollar lottery victory.

  • STM

    sequiturs … sharp gardening implements used in Australia to cut roses and protruding twigs from bushes. Also used in Pom land, I believe

  • Gideon

    Um, it didn’t start with three nooses hanging on a tree. It started with a group of kids that saw that another group of kids met regularly at one location, and the second group decided that they wanted to make them move away. Frankly, if it had been me, I would not have used a noose in a tree, that was just stupid (like kids are smart all the time), but telling the kid “Leave us alone” would have been better. I know that I’ve seen my daughter have to face a group of black kids in my town, and to be honest, it is scary as hell!

    I’m also disturbed that a group of six kids could wrestle a shotgun from ANYONE’S hands! Not only is it stupid, but shows that they have no fear at all of someone with a gun. Could it have been that they also had a gun? My guess is that the situation was far from that simple.

    Yesterday I was in a gun shop trying to get a target rifle and overheard a group of three black kids, about 19, gold teeth, “bling” and a very dangerous attitude… saying to the shop owner just before he kicked them out, “Some asshole pulls a knife on me, I want something bigger to pull on his ass, like an AK47 or something, ha ha ha. I can’t wait until I’m old enough to buy that gun.”

    I don’t envy the kids today. While we all had our racism issues in the 60’s and 70’s, my daughter is also dealing with racism issues. Hostile attitudes, no respect for others that are not black, and the knowledge that no matter what, if it comes down to court or the parents, she’s lost before the fight began simply because she is white. Even if she did mount a defense, the hostility, threats and litigation are just overwhelming… no matter who was right or wrong.

    If they are criminals, then SAY they are criminals. Get the color out of it.

    The rate at which black men are incarcerated is astonishing. There are 4,630 black men in prison nationwide per 100,000 black men in the population, whereas the rate for white men is 482.28 In ten states and the District of Columbia, black men are incarcerated at staggeringly high rates that range from 5,740 to 7,859 per 100,000. In contrast, the range among the ten states with the highest rates of white male incarceration is 620 to 1,151. The highest rate of white male incarceration (1,151) is lower than the lowest rate of black male incarceration (1,195). According to Department of Justice calculations, if current rates of incarceration remain unchanged, 28.5 percent of black men will be confined in prison at least once during their lifetime, a figure six times greater than that for white men.

    This was and is used to show that too many black men are arrested, when it should be telling folks that a good portion of crimes are committed by black men.

    This is what needs to be addressed… parents to black children are not doing their jobs.

    It’s that simple.

  • bliffle

    Gideon sez: “Um, it didn’t start with three nooses hanging on a tree. It started with a group of kids that saw that another group of kids met regularly at one location, and the second group decided that they wanted to make them move away”

    Gee, I thought it started when some white kids grabbed the best meeting place and excluded blacks from meeting with them.

    Was I wrong? Were there blacks among that other group? Was that tree NOT the best meeting place? Did one group want to make the other group move away or did they want to join them?

  • Clavos

    OK, Surf Dude.

    Can we please have our collective leg back?

    I googled the daylights out of Aussie sites looking for a garden implement called a “sequitur.”

    Results: Nada. Zero. Zilch. Ninguem. Nicht.

    Please send leg back forthwith. TIA.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Clavos. I just measured America’s leg, and it is indeed 11 centimetres longer than it was this time last week. I blame the Stan Andreas Fault.

    Try it again with the following spelling:

    S-E-C-A-T-E-U-R-S.

    Have a nice day. :-)

    (Maybe I should take pity on Nancy with the bar joke on the other thread, as well?)

  • Clavos

    So, it WAS Stan’s Fault, eh?

    We call ‘em bypass pruners. My wife even has a pair (of secateurs, that is!).

  • http://myspace.com/rayy_17 Raven

    well..Gideon and too some other pplz commentz that ii read aswell

    Im a 16 year old black female and ii am proud and for u to sit up there and say that black parents arent doing their jobs u need to step into my household and u will be astonished of the hell of a job mii parents are doing ta raise my brother, my sister, and I! It seems to me your one of the reason why some kids taday think they can treat other kids neway they feel like. Such as those white kids that hung nooses from the trees from your comment it comes off that it was ok for them to do that and that the black kids should’ve known their place! WELL I KNOW THAT EVERY BODY IS ENTITLED TO EQUAL RIGHTS AND IM GOING TA HAVE MINE EVERY DAY NO MATTER WHAT AND I WILL NEVER LET NO BODY TAKE THEM AWAY FROM ME! just imagaine what i go through every day you say your daughter has it bad tell her to live in my shoes for five minutes..she wouldnt even be able to handle it!

    the onlii reason the little white boy got jumped was because he was asking for it..you tellin me if somebodii held a gun to your head you wouldnt fight back or somebodii just threatin your life in nekind of way if they white or black you would just sit there and no do a thing about it?!? ii find that reallii hard to believe!!

    YOUR COMMENT IS IGNORANT AND ITZ PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT MAKE ME ASHAMED OF THE HUMAN RACE!!!

  • Beautne

    Black people have been enduring this kind of treatment for many years. It’s ashame that kids of any color cant sit under a tree and enjoy themselves without being threaten and attacked.I think that the prosecutor has gone to far in what he is charging the students with. Why can’t black people get a fair trial and justice in America which is suppose to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. I don’t feel that the six students are getting a fair trial because they are to have a jury of their peers and since they are minors then thier jury should have been fellow students not an all white jury who may have children or grandchildren going to that school. Racism is something that we shouldn’t tolerate in this country at all. I hope that their cases go to the Supreme Court and thier convictions are overturn. Kids get into fights everyday and now that race has become involved its a courtroom issue. The prosecutor of this case should be ashamed and the man who threaten and intimidated the students with the shot gun. I hope that God has mercy on their souls. I also wonder how the prosecutor, judge, and the jury can sleep at night knowing that they are destroying the lives of these students.

  • http://Bellsouth.net life1971

    History tells us that the nature of white people is unjust. Their actions continue to show us that they will use whatever means available to destroy anyone not like them. Dont be surprised or disappointed in their actions, for this is their natural instinct. Just as it is Satans instinct to conceal truth and persecute all that is holy and rightous, thus is the nature of white people. We as black peolpe have forgotten that we had to fight and die to be as “free” as we are today.many of us have fooled ourselves into beleiving that the fight is over because we are no longer separated(socially)But in terms of whites doing whats right:they can not do so on their own accord because it is not IN them. How does one expect love from those whos insticnt is to hate? As for the comment that black parents are not raising their children properly I whole-heartedly agree. We allow our black men to date white women, we have black women dying their hair blonde, we have black lawmaker possessing the ablity yet lacking the balls to stand up for the instrest in the balck community. Long story short, we are sending our children the wrong message. Let us not teach them to be like the unjust. Teach them to proud of the sacrifices,accomplishment and heritage that is their birthright. Therefore they wont have to seek acceptance from those less Godly.

  • Nancy

    The problem isn’t whites or blacks, because if it had been all whites, it would have been Italians vs. Poles, or Catholics vs Protestants; of all blacks, it would have been homeboys vs townies, or Fundies vs. AMEs, or something. More significant is that it was all males. Testosterone poisoning among the entire group doesn’t help. Groups of males tend to fight regardless, & will willingly create or manufacture differences of “us” vs “them” if none exist, because that is the nature of men/boys.

    As for the parents of ALL the students, who knows who is at fault, or who is not? I know plenty of hard-working, strict black parents who are exemplary, and whites I wouldn’t trust to raise a dog – and vice versa. Color has nothing to do with it; it’s just an excuse.

  • Wormwood

    “History tells us that the nature of white people is unjust. Their actions continue to show us that they will use whatever means available to destroy anyone not like them.”

    White people like every other race on the face of the planet have engaged discrimination, and racial atrocities, but the black slave trade would never have been possible without willing help from native Africans. Is it more evil to purchase a stranger as a slave, or to sell your brother into slavery?

    Benin apologizes for slavery

    “We as black peolpe have forgotten that we had to fight and die to be as “free” as we are today.many of us have fooled ourselves into beleiving that the fight is over”

    350,000 Union(evil whitey) soldiers died in the civil war. What fight are you referring to?

    “But in terms of whites doing whats right:they can not do so on their own accord because it is not IN them. How does one expect love from those whos insticnt is to hate?”

    Slavery is still practiced in Africa, so hows that for hate?

    I don’t hate black people but I am tired of this attempt to make me feel guilty for something that ended a 100 years before I was born. When will the whining stop. When is the debt paid? Al Sharpton can give you that answer, and it’s never. The debt will never be paid until evil whitey quits letting you make him feel guilty, and I don’t feel guilty.

  • 911

    Well here we go again. Remember 911? Suddenly Americans of all races and color were standing together, is that what it takes in this country to be as one, a tradgety? There is racism in every culture, there is good and bad in every culture and race. One bad apple does not ruin the crate. This incident has nothing to do with how black parents raise their children or with white people getting it right. There will always be some racism in every culture but that does not make every one race a bad one. White people guarenteed are the worse and at the same time there are many, many white people who are genuine good, fair rightous people. The same can be said for black people, good and bad. I am white, my children are biracial, it has come at me and my children from all sides. There is no good or bad there is only rightousness and common sense. If someone burnt a Cross in my yard you better believe I’m going after that person wheather they are white or black, period. Maybe we need another tradgedy in this country to pull us together again, seems like everyone is getting bored with themselves so hey, time to pick on the other guy. Let’s come together, right now. Don’t worry, that prosucuter won’t last long once the freedom fighters come down on him. As for the kids that hung the rope, they need to find out what their ancestry is and see what happened to their people in the past and maybe they need a lesson of their own so that they can see how it feels. Every natonality has suffered some kind of pursecution in the past, they need to know what theirs was. How much longer does this have to go on?

  • lexis

    Raven,
    I’m a 22 year old BLACK female staying and raised by a black woman with 3 other kids, She taught us how to treat everyone as one(equal). What you have said in your comment I really do understand where you are coming from, How could we as black people be the victims of something that we didnt start. Maybe if we as black people let other people bother us and get away with then what would the DISTRICT ATTORNEY do then? But I be Damn if we going to walk around with our heads down because other people wasnt raised RIGHT. I can fully say that I was raised right and still being raised to this day, no matter if I am 22yrs old, I learn stuff everyday from my mother, And we still respect those who respect us!!!!!!!!