Note: This post gets more hits than any other on my little blog. I am keeping a close eye on the comments, and while I won’t delete any comments just because I disagree with them, I will delete any that are hateful, racist, unreasonable, or fail to support their contentions with at least some semblance of a logical argument. I am also not going to respond to most comments because I think there is better debate happening elsewhere, and I honestly don’t have time to pay proper attention to such a discussion here. Thanks!

Via my precious Chicago Sun-Times: Michael Bell’s sentenced reduced from 22 years to 15.

But guess what? That’s still ridiculous. The judge reduced the sentence by tossing out the conspiracy conviction. That means Michael Bell (Black) is still considered guilty, in the eyes of the law, of attempted murder for participating in a beating that sent Justin Barker (white) to the hospital, where he was treated and released for minor injuries. Barker went to a party the next night. Barker also participating in race-based harassment and violence against Bell and other Black students at Jena High. Now that doesn’t excuse a beating necessarily, but it should have an impact on the prosecution’s case against Bell. I’m a little rusty (as in totally in the dark) about Louisiana criminal law thanks to its roots in French common law, but considering that dueling was legal in the state until at least 1890, it would make sense that resorting to fisticuffs in response to somebody hanging a noose from a tree that you tried to sit under would be socially, if not technically legally, acceptable.

But of course, as it was in the dueling rules of the 19th century, so it is for the criminal court system today:

Only gentlemen, not laborers, mechanics, or blacks, were eligible to use pistols on the field of honor. Gentlemen were presumed to be planters, military offices, or professors. The status of ministers, news-paper editors, physicians, and bankers was less certain. Whatever the case, people of the “lesser sort” were denied access to the dueling field; they were to be dealt with by caning or horsewhipping. (Source)

The prosecuting attorney in Jena, Louisiana never should have been allowed to prosecute these kids for attempted murder in the first place. The judge should have ordered a directed verdict for the defendant, or whatever the hell the equivalent of a directed verdict is in Louisiana, when the jury convicted him of attempted murder and conspiracy. At the very least, the judge should have given Bell the lightest sentence possible under Louisiana’s sentencing guidelines. It’s all just such a sham.

Michael Bell has a long, tough court battle ahead of him, and he’s going to need all the help he can get. You can send donations to:

Jena 6 Defense Committee
PO Box 2798
Jena, LA 71342

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