Politics/Law/Government

Jena 6 D.A. Reed Walters – Jesus loves him, everyone else is just out to get him…

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LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters is feeling rather put upon these days. In fact, he’s felt compelled to defend himself in The New York Times. The way he sees it, he’s simply trying to pursue justice in the case of the Jena 6, and for his trouble, he’s being castigated, chastised and – dare I say it – crucified for his attempt to serve the people of Jena, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, the United States, Earth, the Universe to put it in Thornton Wilder terms.

Even now people are calling for an investigation into his actions – actions which seemed to suggest favoritism toward whites and prejudice toward blacks that suggests miscarriage – or at least misappropriation – of that justice he claims to seek:

There was serious bodily harm inflicted with a dangerous weapon — the definition of aggravated second-degree battery. Mr. Bell’s conviction on that charge as an adult has been overturned, but I considered adult status appropriate because of his role as the instigator of the attack, the seriousness of the charge and his prior criminal record. – Reed Walters (italics mine)

The “dangerous weapon” that Mr. Walters refers to was a tennis shoe.

No matter how one feels about Mychal Bell’s past misconduct, Walters’ continuing press to prosecute both Bell and the other Jena 6 defendants as severely as possible raises questions about the sense of legal impartiality which he claims for himself in his NYT op-ed. In fact, Walters has argued that his actions are guided by Jesus – and that Jesus has protected him and Jena during this “ordeal” of struggling to bring justice to the Jena case:

I firmly believe and am confident of the fact that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday (the day of the Jena demonstration against the unjust treatment of the Jena 6 defendants), a disaster would have happened…. The Lord Jesus Christ put his influence on those people, and they responded accordingly….

He then went on to thank Jesus and say that the only way he and the people of Jena “have been able to endure the trauma that has been thrust upon us is through the prayers of the Christian people who have sent them up in this community….”

Of course some of his “opponents,” (those who think that filing murder charges against high school kids for a school yard attack while those guilty of hate crimes, beating of blacks and brandishing weapons go lightly punished because they’re white does not not exactly reflect what justice is) have a different interpretation of Mr. Walters’ appropriation of Jesus Christ as protector of the status quo in Jena:

For him to try and separate the community like he is and then using Christ Jesus to influence the people that Jesus is working on their side, well, that’s — that’s absurd. … God is god of the human race…. Reverend Donald Sidley

Having grown up in the South a good Episcopalian boy, while I’ve never shared Mr. Walters’ evangelical fervor, I do know my Bible. I’d recommend that he spend some time contemplating Matthew 7:1:

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Or maybe he can think some about the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

30 replies »

  1. This particular “public servant” seems to be shaping up as the Mike Nifong of 2007. If I’d had any doubts as to the measure of his malfeasance before his courtroom prayer meeting, that dispelled them.

    He’s unfit for office. Let’s hope the people of Jena take the earliest opportunity to set him down the road toward a new career in the ministry…

  2. He and the mayor are also grateful for the prayers of the white supremisists. Yup, I’m sure Jesus his own self woulda marched with the Klan and David Duke.

    And what is so galling about him attributing the non-violence to his prayers is as racist as Bill O’s astonishment that African Americans can run a business and behave like the patrons of a suburban Italian rest. Sheesh

  3. Mychael Bell is a vicious little shit, whose crimes have been papered over for several years because he is a good football player.

    Michael Nifong & the Duke case do not even compare, as there was no crime committed, except by the stripper, who falsely accused a bunch of people she assumed had deep pockets of rape.

  4. “On Friday night, December 1, a black student who showed up at a white party was beaten by whites. On Saturday, December 2, a young white man pulled out a shotgun in a confrontation with young black men at the Gotta Go convenience store outside Jena before the men wrestled it away from him. The black men who took the shotgun away were later arrested; no charges were filed against the white man.”

    So these weren’t crimes then, barnswallow?

  5. Problem is uneven application of charges (white/black). I must disagree with the characterization of the weapon (a tennis shoe). Any kicking, where the kicker is standing and kicking at a low lying object, produces a great deal of force. The expectation, as firing a gun is death or serious harm. As with firing a gun, out of 1,000 victims, you’ll see a wide a spectrum of harm. The expectation of kicking at someone on the ground, IMHO, and from my nephew nearly dying, and from too numerous news stories should IMHO always be considered attempted murder.

    The charges in this case must not be that, of course because of the historical president and the protests against any charges but what would be leveled at white youths. So, I’m only objecting to the incorrect deminishing of the seriousness of “kicking” — you may not have grown up in be from the same hellish poverty stricken place as me 🙂 and I’m sure your oversight is not intentional rhetoric. But, I’m still disapointed in you saying “the weapon: a tennis shoe” when YOU know and your readers know, that you can’t be sincere in that. As if the shoe was tossed at them? Is that what you mean? Come on. 😦 Be honest.
    There was recently a case in England of a death where some kids knocked down a man coming out of a store, he was kicked in the head — end of story. 😦 Happens all the time.

  6. Most reasonable parents would not underestimate the seriousness of an attack on their offspring that the Jena 6 carried out.

    The randomness of their target – a white dude not at all connected to the nooses hanging from a tree – would make anyone think twice about sending their child to a school which allows heroes to be made of thugs.

    …and those with money, good jobs etc will keep looking to schools that give adequate protection.

    Violence is not acceptable in a school whatever the provocation.

    …any blow to the head which causes a blackout is serious. To claim otherwise is disingenuous.

  7. Elaine, can you or anyone else show me where Jim said a blow to the head wasn’t serious?

    I’m pretty sure what he suggested was to a point of law – to wit, that a TENNIS SHOE IS NOT A “DEADLY WEAPON.” The point is about how the prosecutor is abusing his authority.

    Come on folks. If we accept that a sneaker is a deadly weapon because when it’s worn on a foot the resulting damage can be nasty, then we make it possible to assign “deadly weapon” status to just about anything. For instance, string just became a deadly weapon because I can wrap some around my foot and then stomp you to death. Same goes for rubber bands. Paper. Scotch tape. White Out. Etc.

    If you want to disagree with Jim, let’s make an effort to disagree with what he’s actually SAYING.

  8. “Deadly Weapon is defined as any firearm or other weapon, device, instrument, material or substance, whether animate or inanimate, which in the manner it is used or is intended to be used is known to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.”

  9. Well, there woudl have to be some tests, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find that tennis shoes, being soft and designed to absorb shock, actually reduce the trauma of a kick in much the way that boxing gloves reduce the damage of a punch. If a man punches another and knocks him unconscious, and he is wearing boxing gloves, does that make the boxing glove a deadly weapon? If I hit a man with a pillow, and he stumbles backwards and falls over a cliff, does that make the pillow a deadly weapon?

  10. The bigots who preach Jesus when it suits them have forgotten this scripture also:
    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

    Okay, maybe it doesn’t say specifically “black nor white,” but hopefully any Pharisees out there can take some liberty.

    This mess is yet another reason why government and corporate higher ups can steal our country and get away with it. They don’t need to divide and conquer. We are already divided.

  11. Elaine, the question is whether YOU’RE being obtuse. The deadly weapon statute exists for a reason, and if you apply it in such a way that ANYTHING can be a deadly weapon – which is how you seem to want it applied – then ASSAULT and ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON become one and the same thing, rendering the statute meaningless.

    When I see a DA using that statute to apply to apply to something that – as JS astutely notes may even have SOFTENED the blows – I know instantly that something fishy is up.

    What’s unclear is why you’re so comfortable defending such an obvious gaming of the system. If I buy this particular load of horsewax then I have to believe that I can smear my hand with Silly Putty and in doing so make IT a deadly weapon.

  12. Sigh.

    In a case here in Denver, the victim was strangled with a pillow case until they blacked out – repeatedly – and the DA wouldn’t add a charge of “assault with a deadly weapon” specifically because an prettily embroidered pillowcase is not a “deadly weapon”. It leaves lovely bruises, and certainly COULD be used to kill someone, however, this honor is reserved for items that are specifically manufactured to maim or kill.

    I can’t think of a single thing, that in the right hands, with the right (wrong) intent couldn’t be used to seriously injure or kill someone.

  13. Mychal Bell may well be a “vicious little shit,” pampered and excused because of his athletic prowess. Happens all the time.

    Justin Barker sounds like a “dumb little shit” with a racist attitude, who shot off his mouth in the wrong situation and got the crap beat out of him. Happens all the time.

    I don’t really care about either of them personally.

    What I care about is a justice system that charges a group of black kids, armed with fists and tennis shoes, with attempted murder, after having recently charged ONE member of a group of white kids, armed with beer bottles, with a misdemeanor. Same dynamic, same general numbers. Reversed color palette.

    And Elaine, if Justin were my child, I would want his attackers prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (frankly, I would probably want them dead). But I have a feeling that the parents of that boy attacked with beer bottles at the party felt the same way, without a chance of seeing it happen.

  14. “… if Justin were my child, I would want his attackers prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (frankly, I would probably want them dead). But I have a feeling that the parents of that boy attacked with beer bottles at the party felt the same way, without a chance of seeing it happen.”

    Agreed. Although I would not wish to see the kids dead or sent away for life with regard to their attack on J Barker. They should have been tried as juveniles (even though sentencing is so often pathetic when reading about other cases that have come before Juvenile Courts).

    As far as the tennis shoe is concerned the precedent existed which allowed it to be entered into evidence in the manner it was. It was also not the first time these unsavoury individuals had been in trouble.

    Any attack on another person, whatever the colour of individuals, should be prosecuted by a DA to the fullest extent he is able to because after that it is a case of bargaining. A DA is not supposed to be soft.

    Until I see a proper write up of the other cases I do not accept, just because someone makes the claim that the local system is biased that it is so. I do not roll that way. Each case. Case by Case.

    Too often individuals promote the conspiracy theory. I am beginning to think there is something I call a patchwork quilt mentality at work. It gather scraps, sews them together and yep there you go it is absolute proof that the system, ‘the man’, the others are out to get me.

    …the nooses were not and never have been justification for an attack of J Barker. J Barker may be an idiot but no one has the right to beat him up. It is against the law. Period.

    Injustice exists. It does not serve anyone well to state that because A got off lightly B C and D should too. Rather, I’d be researching the details of A and raising a storm about that.

  15. Elaine, what exactly are you arguing about? I’ve been wondering on all of these threads…

    Although it’s stating the obvious: NO ONE here believes B and C and D should get off “lightly.” Case A should be investigated and possibly re-opened – and if you’d like to see a write-up, you can do the same research I did. (Did you notice I didn’t mention the nooses? That’s because under Louisiana law, they’re not a crime. You’re flinging apples at my oranges). It’s the equitable application of the law, not whether or not it should be applied, that is the issue for rational people here.

    The “conspiracy theory?” Ridiculous. There are crazy, paranoid people in the world – some of them certainly spouting off about this case – but recognizing an entrenched pattern and social acceptance of racial bias is not conspiracy theory. It is a recognition of injustice; you know, that injustice you’ve admitted exists? The kind that flourishes in a climate of ignorance, apathy and fear.

    You’ll be glad to hear that people ARE raising a storm about Case A – and the public scrutiny from Cases B, C and D may have made that possible. Come spend a little time in the American South, Elaine, particularly in a small, unnoticeable town. Look around a little. See who lives where, who goes to jail and for what, whose complaints get listened to, who has the power to work the system – if you can. Outsiders don’t get very far, even affluent white ones.

    The mentality I wonder about? The kind that sets up straw men to bash, over and over, to disguise or justify its own lack of empathy, experience and understanding.

    (personal note) Yes, at a gut level, I’d probably want anyone who attacked my child dead, even after the old conscience kicked in. Flesh of my flesh and all that. It’s astonishingly powerful.

    And that’s all I have to say about that. Carry on.

  16. Oh, and that’s me, euphrosyne, up above. As a genius of these here Internets, I just realized that auto-fill was using my WordPress ID. Seems a bit impersonal.

  17. I live in Jena. We have our share of stupid people. As do all towns and cities, big or small. Not many of the people I know believe the boys should have been charged as adults. However, something we all agree on, is that those boys have been turned into national heros, to be looked up to and respected for their fight against racial injustice. This is crap. They beat up another kid. Nothing about it was right. Nothing about it was ok. And it should not be rewarded. But they are signing autographs, no joke. And by the way, whats the defense fund for? The lawyers are pro bono. Maybe a couple of those Jena 6 mothers, I won’t name names, who had to “mortgage their houses” and what-not, should sell those brand new Jag’s they’re driving since their kids were arrested. . .interesting appropriation, yes?

  18. Ah, someone from Jena checks in. Having grown up in a little town in the South much like Jena, it’s both appalling and, oddly, reassuring to find that things really haven’t changed all that much. Of course, my infrequent visits home had already pretty much confirmed that.

    Let’s take this statment from Kristi:

    “We have our share of stupid people. As do all towns and cities, big or small. ”

    Unless you are a white Southerner of a certain age (as I am), you cannot know just how nostalgic this kind of statement makes us. All through the Civil Rights movement, white people all around me kept making statements very much like this one, implying that racism in the South was no worse than in the “Nawth.” I’m sure post-WWII Germans said something very similar about the United States: “Well, there are anti-Semites in the US, too!!!”

    The problem is the issue of moral equivalency. Today, in NYC, at Columbia University, a copycat noose was hung on a black professor’s office door. The Columbia president’s response:

    “This is an assault on African Americans and therefore it is an assault on every one of us. I know I speak on behalf of every member of our communities in condemning this horrible action.”

    Jena’s response? It was just a prank.

    According to Tuskeegee Institute, 3,446 African-Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1968. 94% of those were lynched in former slave states (less Delaware, which had only one lynching total and West Virginia, which had been a former slave state but in which few slaves resided). Louisiana killed 335. That would suggest a difference between racism in the South and everywhere else, wouldn’t it?

    When I was growing up and we traveled to Pennsylvania to see relatives, I didn’t notice white and colored drinking fountains, restaurants, bathrooms, waiting rooms, and the like. I sure saw a lot of those in my hometown and surrounding county.

    Does anyone seriously think that all those people in my county who fought integration tooth and nail, and then founded and attended “seg acadamies” so that their children didn’t have to see any schoolmate who wasn’t Magnolia white, have all changed their minds? That they’re all dead and gone, and their children and grandchildren share none of their attitudes and opinions?

    I’ll believe that when I see large demonstrations by Southern white people to end racism, the way we see such demonstrations in Germany, today, against the reemergence of Nazi groups.

    Do I really expect to see something like that in Jena, a town that voted for KKK member David Duke? No. I do expect to see more Kristis over here insisting that “we’re no worse than nobody else.”

  19. JS,

    You might find this previous post on Jena interesting since it explores the same territory your comment does:

    http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2007/07/19/jena-6-update-the-naacp-finally-gets-involved-the-good-old-boys-have-some-fun-and-whites-in-jena-say-were-not-like-that-thats-them-people-over-there-yadda-yadda/

    BTW, I’m a Southerner of a certain age, too. I know the world you describe intimately having grown up in it, too. That’s what first put me onto Jena:

    http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2007/06/28/the-jena-6-and-the-old-south-or-plus-ca-changeyou-know-the-rest/

    Jim Booth

  20. Jim,

    Those pieces were well worth reading. Quentin Compson is one of my heroes, though I hope to end it a bit better than he did.

    You know, maybe my thought processes are just too simple, but I don’t think it’s complicated, at all. Societies have always feared those they have mistreated, because they know the mistreated have reason to hate them and dream of revenge. In essence, lynching has the same roots as Crassus’ insistence on crucifying Spartacus’ followers along the highways of Rome.

    Thanks for the links. Really, really good stuff. Impressive.

    (Note: Thanks for being all over the Jena story. It’s nice to know that it didn’t have to bubble up completely from African American bloggers.)

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