Sharpton Wants Probe of La. Prosecutor
Monday, September 10, 2007; 8:37 AM
JENA, La. -- Two civil rights leaders urged Jena residents to demand equal justice, and one called for an investigation of the district attorney who is prosecuting six black teenagers charged with serious crimes in the beating of a white classmate.
The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both said Sunday they would join thousands of people expected in Jena on Sept. 20 to protest the teens' treatment. That is the day that one of the six, Mychal Bell, is to be sentenced on an aggravated second-degree battery conviction. Bell faces up to 15 years in prison.
"After that, if we need to, we'll go to Baton Rouge and see the governor and the Legislature," Sharpton said Sunday by phone from New York.
The "Jena Six" case drew protests after five of the six teens were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, carrying sentences of up to 80 years in prison. The sixth was charged in juvenile court.
The beating victim, who is white, was treated for injuries at a hospital and released the same day, and a motive for the alleged Dec. 4 attack at Jena High School was never established.
Sharpton said he would ask for an investigation by the state attorney general and judicial oversight agencies into the actions of LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, who has led the prosecutions.
A telephone message left at Walters' residence was not returned Sunday. He has previously said he cannot comment because of the pending cases.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke to about 200 people at a school Sunday in Jena, where he urged the town's 3,000 residents to come together _ white ministers and black ministers talking and white parents and black parents talking.
"Why be fighting when we can turn to each other and find common ground?" Jackson said. "Jena is too small not to move together."
He said he planned to try to meet Monday with Bell, who remains in jail and unable to post bond, as well as officials at the courthouse.
"We don't want this community to be permanently scarred," Jackson said.
The beating came amid tense race relations in Jena, a mostly white town in north-central Louisiana. After a black student sat under a tree on the school campus where white students traditionally congregated, three nooses were hung in the tree. Students accused of placing the nooses were suspended from school for a short period.