Another example of legal prosecutorial misconduct:
Mychal Bell, 16, a former Jena High School football star, and five other black students had been facing the potential of up to 100 years in prison if convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy and other charges for the December beating of the white student, who was knocked unconscious but not hospitalized. The incident capped months of escalating racial tensions at the high school that began after several white youths hung nooses from a tree in the school courtyard in a taunt aimed at blacks.
But as jury selection was about to begin in Bell's case Monday, District Atty. Reed Walters reduced the charges to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery, which together carry a maximum of 22 years in prison. Walters, who is prosecuting Bell as an adult, also offered the teenager a plea agreement including a suspended sentence, which Bell's father said the youth rejected.
Plea-bargaining tactics like this have become commonplace in American jurisprudence. Some may view the reduced charges as more reasonable -- but anything less reasonable would be hard to imagine.
Some more info on the new charges:
Aggravated second-degree battery involves use of a dangerous weapon, according to state statutes. Parents of the accused say they had heard no previous mention of a weapon.
"Well, anything is better than murder and a lifetime in prison," said John Jenkins, whose son, Carwin Jones, is among the charged. "But it's still strange. All of a sudden they're talking about a weapon. What weapon? We never heard anything about a weapon before."
Hanging a ridiculous sentence over defendants' heads and then offering a reduced plea (which, in this case, is still absurd) to avoid a jury trial is nothing less than an abuse of the judicial process.
More from reason on plea bargaining here.