Remember the Jena 6?
Robert Bailey, then aged 17; Mychal Bell, then 16; Carwin Jones, then
18; Bryant Purvis, then 17; Jesse Ray Beard, then 14; and Theo Shaw,
then 17 were arrested and charged with attempted murder in 2006 after a fight that left a white classmate badly beaten; after nooses were hung from a tree that was deemed "White Only" tree. The case sparked outrage and protest all over the Country. Thousands of chanting demonstrators filled the streets of Lasalle Parrish, led by figures such as the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. At
the time, Jena (JEE'-nuh) was left to fend off accusations of
racism in the justice system – no one was charged for hanging the
nooses, and protesters derided the attempted murder charges as
excessive. The charges were later reduced.
According to Huffington Post:
Jesse Ray Beard has since gone on to Hofstra, where he earned an academic
scholarship, is pursuing legal studies and business, and plays on the
lacrosse team. He plans to go to grad school on the west coast and
eventually work as a sports agent.
Robert Bailey Jr., who graduated from high school in Georgia, plays
wide receiver at Grambling and is a member of the ROTC. After he
graduates in 2013, he hopes to pursue a military career.
"Because of what happened, I grew up. I learned things too, like doing things the right way," Bailey said.
Mychal Bell, who was 16 at the time, was the only defendant to go to
trial. He was convicted, but that decision was set aside. He ultimately
pleaded guilty to a second-degree battery charge and received an
18-month sentence. The other five accepted a plea deal that gave them
seven days probation, a $500 fine and court costs.
Bell, a highly recruited football player before the beating, is a
cornerback on Southern University's team. His attorney said it was best
if he wasn't interviewed.
"Every time there's something in the press about him, he gets a lot of hate mail," said Bell's attorney, Louis Scott.
Theo Shaw, 21, is now studying political science and history at
University of Louisiana at Monroe and plans to go to law school. He has
done several internships in the field, he said, including one with the
Innocence Project, a national nonprofit that works to free wrongfully
convicted prisoners. His time in jail sparked his interest in law – he
said he spent a lot of time reading up on the subject so he could file
"I do think it was a situation that helped me to develop character
and be a better person," Shaw said. "But beyond that, I don't think of
it much anymore."
Bryant Purvis is enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana. Carwin Jones did not return calls left with his father for comment.
The victim, Justin Barker, is the only one who still lives in Jena.
Now 22, he's an inconspicuous young man: thin, with soft brown hair and
large eyes, a Southerner raised to say "Yes, ma'am" and "Yes, sir" and
stay quiet around strangers. So he's always surprised when someone asks
if he's "that" Justin Barker, he told The Associated Press in his first
media interview since the beating.
"That's the only time that whole thing comes up," Barker said,
sitting in the dining area of his tidy new trailer. These days he works
on an oil rig in Texas – seven days on, seven off – and helps his father
cut timber when he's home. He recently divorced the woman who was his
girlfriend when he was beaten.