The Associated Press reports that a Louisiana appeals court has overturned the conviction of Mychal Bell, the first defendant in the Jena 6 case.
Don’t get excited. It’s not over. The kid may not even get out of jail.
It turns out that because Bell was only 16 at the time of the fight that resulted in his being charged with five other black Jena High School students in the beating of a white student, he should not have been tried as an adult.
The other 5 guys who were ever so much older and wiser, (they were 17, certainly an age when one should be held accountable for murder for a school yard fight, after all) will face adult charges – they will not get the “lucky break” Bell got.
One has to wonder at the timing of the appeals court decision. As the AP report notes:
Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, had been planning a rally in support of the teens for the day Bell was to have been sentenced.
Given the proclivities of those involved in the whole Jena mess, one has to wonder of some “good old boy” maneuvering isn’t taking place. Let’s think about it:
– this appeals court decision defuses (at least to a degree) some of the energy and explosiveness from the Sharpton/Jackson related rally;
– Bell is still at the mercy of a parish district attorney who can recharge him before he can clear the doors of the jail where he’s being held – but, of course, he’s a football star (running back)coveted by LSU, so there’s a chance he’ll walk so he can run;
– even if Bell does somehow miraculously escape the clutches of the D.A., the other 5 boys will face the same crippling charges he did and have their lives ruined for fighting back (albeit none too wisely) against what was clearly a racist hate crime that went largely unpunished – bet the farm on this;
– if by some miracle the Jena 6 get some semblance of just treatment at the hands of the legal system, (unlike the Scottsboro Boys, pictured above), there are always the local good old boys who find the examples of men like those who murdered Emmett Till just too admirable not to emulate them.
As my grandfather used to say, “If they keep messing around, somebody’s gonna end up dead.”
Let’s hope that for once my grandfather’s aphorism might be wrong….