Jena 6 Documents

Laura Curtis has worked with Joe Carter to make primary documents from the [tag]Jena 6[/tag] case available on the internet. This is an important effort, and I would like to make sure it gets maximal exposure in the blogosphere. Thanks to Laura for arranging for these documents and to Joe for hosting them on his server.

I had already noted that I disagree with the “free the Jena 6” slogan, although it appeared, and still appears to me that justice is not being handled even-handedly. This latter view is subject to correction based on these documents, but that is not a correction I will make today.

The source of these documents, a resident of Jena, LA, made what I regard as a good statement in a letter posted on Pursuing Holiness:

If you are looking for the truth about what happened in the Justin Barker beating, look no further than the eye witness statements (shown here) and the court transcripts. It is evident that some Jena 6 supporters are so keen on furthering their cause, they attempt to discredit anything that they disagree with. I agree there are valid racism issues in this country. I believe that punishment for crimes should always be equal. If these students are punished more severely for the color of their skin, an investigation should be conducted and corrective action will be necessary for the culprits responsible. To tell the world that the Jena 6 should be set free and all charges be dropped will not solve the problem, but only foment an ideology that violence in our school system is okay.

I agree with all aspects, though I think I take a less positive view of the amount of [tag]racism[/tag] likely present in a small town. This isn’t a comment on Jena in particular, but on many rural towns that I have experienced. It does not require a directly racist majority. It simply requires a strong minority whose attitudes are tolerated. It’s much easier to tolerate racism in your friends if you’re white. You may not even realize what’s going on amongst your African-American neighbors.

As I’ve thought about this I would also ask the question of socio-economic status. Often a small amount of racism is exacerbated by the attitude of the general population toward the economically disadvantaged. This is just something to look at, not something I have actually observed or even intuited about this case.

I commend Laura Curtis for her tireless efforts on this issue, and I look forward to her analysis of the case. I think her read of these manuscripts is likely to be better than mine, since she has studied the situation much more closely. I won’t abdicate my responsibility to look for myself, but do commend her comments to you.

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  1. A common but false assertion made in connection with the Jena High School beating is that the Jena Six, who are charged with aggravated battery, are being over-charged simply because they are black. However, in a 2005 case similar to the Jena Six beating, five white South Carolina teenagers who beat up a black teenager were charged and convicted of “second-degree lynching and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.” (There was no actual lynching involved. Second-degree lynching is defined by South Carolina law as any act of violence on another person by a mob when death does not occur. A mob is considered two or more people whose purpose and intent is committing an act of violence on another person.) Like the Jena Six, the white teenagers kicked the victim, 16-year-old Isaiah Clyburn, as he lay on the ground. The attack left the black youth “on the roadside bruised and bloodied from the attack.”
    The white teenagers received the following sentences: One, who prosecutors said was the person most responsible for the attack, was sentenced to 18 years suspended to six years and 400 hours of public service. Two were sentenced to 15 years suspended to three years and 300 hours of public service. And one was sentenced to 15 years suspended to 30 months and 300 hours of community service. A sixth co-defendant, Amy Woody, 17, was also charged with 2nd-degree lynching even though she did not take part in the beating.

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