Jena 6 Case Wrapping Up


Mychal Bell is pleading guilty in what seems like a pretty sweet deal.

Plea agreements for the five other defendants may follow, said David Utter, an attorney for an unidentified juvenile charged in the case. Utter said he has discussed a possible plea with prosecutor Reed Walters.

In the agreement, Walters dropped conspiracy charges against Bell and reduced an aggravated battery charge to second-degree battery. Bell was sentenced to serve 18 months, which includes the year he already spent in jail.

The curious case has been well-covered here at reason: here are the 12 media myths about Jena, and here's a response to that list.

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  1. It’s a sweet deal if you think that a schoolyard fight deserves 18 mos in jail. This, with an original felony count of attempted murder for using a deadly weapon — also known as a Nike — hanging over his head.

    Should he be punished? Certainly. Should they use a trumped-up charge to get him into a plea? Absolutely not.

  2. It was a bit more than a schoolyard fight.

    My gut reaction is that this sentence is too harsh, but not absurdly so, like the previous charges.

  3. My gut reaction is that this sentence is too harsh,

    Is Bell the one that has had convictions for other stuff? If so, IMHO, it’s not too harsh for a repeat offender.

    but not absurdly so, like the previous charges.

    I agree that the previous charges were absurb

  4. Joe –

    Granted, the kid got jumped and knocked out. But, other than the concussion, he was medically fine.

    I will concede that my particular school background gives me a higher tolerance for school violence than many, but the fact remains that the victim wasn’t seriously hurt. No broken bones, no internal injuries, not so much as a lost tooth if memory serves.

    But my larger point is that plea bargains are often used in this manner. You are charged with a greatly exaggerated count so you are coerced into taking a plea to up the prosecutor’s conviction rate and lessen your own chances of being sent up for an ridiculous sentence.

    There is a story in the NYT (see below) about felony murder charges which touches on this topic. A kid who drunkenly lent his car to a friend who used the car to rob (and subsequently murder) someone, got life w/o parole. He was offered 10 years, but turned that down because it was excessive and thought a jury would see that.

    The net effect is that people are being penalized for exercising their constitutional right to jury trial via plea bargains. This is especially problematic when the potential cost of trying to prove your actual innocence (not in this case, but generally speaking)is greater than the plea they offer you.

    I also blogged about this aspect of the Jena 6 case before it became a national spectacle here:

    NYT article here ( I suck at HTML)

  5. But, other than the concussion, he was medically fine. … but the fact remains that the victim wasn’t seriously hurt.

    Been reading a lot of medical txts lately, haven’t you?

  6. they didn’t even keep him in the hospital that night for “observation” — seems fine to me.

  7. Dude was beaten unconscious.

  8. Granted, the kid got jumped and knocked out. But, other than the concussion, he was medically fine.

    Blanks loses the thread.

  9. I’m sorry, but to continue to beating the hell out of an unconscious person is attempted murder, regardless of injuries.

  10. A civil suit would be a good idea. But for some reason, I think Mr. Bell may have trouble finding work.

    call it a hunch.

  11. I’d like to add to what Coarsetad said. The consequentialist effects, i.e., the extent of the injury, have no bearing on the attacker’s intent. If I shot you three times intending to kill you, but you ended up “just with a concussion,” the fact that you ended up with a just a concussion doesn’t matter two sh**ts if I’m charged with attempted murder.

  12. I read the timeline of the case in a NO paper which was linked from this site a couple of months ago and it seemed to me that

    1) much ado was made about nothing, and then the kids reacted to what the out-of-towner adults were saying.

    2)Mr. Bell is not a very nice guy and would be involved with the CJS in no time at all.

  13. He meant to beat the kid up and he blindsided him. Was it even kind of right? No. Should he be punished? Of course.

    Did he mean to kill him? I doubt that highly.

    And again, my point is not that these kids are upstanding citizens to be absolved of wrongdoing because of the inflammatory but unrelated incidents that preceded this assault. But the fact that the prosecutor charged him with “assault with a deadly weapon” — a SHOE — is inexcusable.

    It wasn’t a bat; it wasn’t a knife; it wasn’t a gun; it wasn’t even a steel-toed boot. If he had used any of the above, I could see ‘attempted murder.’

    But it was a gym shoe.

    What? Is he Random Task from Austin Powers?

    Expel him; sue him; charge him as a juvenile (he was 16 at the time) and be done with it.

  14. Blanks,

    That is most certainly not what you were saying, as a simple Ctrl+F will show that the first time you mentioned a “shoe”-beating was in your last post. I don’t know the details of this case, but assault with a deadly weapon for a shoe is ridiculous. But you’re being equally ridiculous when you suggest that you need a weapon to commit attempted murder.

  15. His first post did mention a Nike.

  16. Oh, and nice move changing the subject after you conflated the effects of an injury with an attacker’s intent.

  17. Good call David. I take that one back. But my point about attempted murder stands.

  18. x,y:

    ctrl-f “Nike”

    and you’re right, you don’t NEED a weapon to prove attempted murder. But you need to prove intent – and if I wanted to kill someone, I think I’d pick up something more forceful than a gym shoe.

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen more than my share of “jumpings.” (thankfully, not on the receiving end.) In all those incidents, never had I thought they were tryingto kill anyone.

    Wanting to inflict harm on someone is a very long way from intending to kill them.

  19. Blanks loses the thread.

    Oooh! You can lose a thread now? I like that!
    We all know there can be only one winner, but there can be lots of losers. It’s a victory for egalitarianism!

  20. To me the most aggravating thing about this case is that “Rev” Al Sharpton and “Rev” Jesse Jackson swooped in yet again for their 15 minutes of racist fame. It’s too bad that, yet again, their true colors shined through but their glassy-eyed followers couldn’t figure it out. They continue to be racial ambulance chasers and no one calls them on their bigoted horse shit.

  21. x,y:

    as for the “conflation”:

    the original charge was ‘attempted murder’, which needs intent. They dropped it to “aggravated second degree battery” which requires a “dangerous weapon.” (see my post in June)

    When making a case against the extent of the charges, both effect and intent are relevant. (e.g., manslaughter vs. murder)

    Conceded:mea culpa for calling it a “deadly” earlier.

  22. Here I thought the most aggravating thing about the case was the pervuasive and systemic discrimination.

    But I guess I was wrong, and the most aggravating thing was the outside agitators complaining about it.

    Damn outside agitators, always stirring things up!

  23. I find it hard to believe he was jumped with only a shoe and that the shoe was only foreign object to land on his body. I’m willing to bet there were punches thrown and/or foot stomping. Does this rise to level of intent to kill in this case? I have no freaking clue. I know it could though. And because it’s not implausible on its face, the prosecutor would be a fool not to use the charge to some advantage.

  24. Blanks,

    Thanks for clarifying some of the facts. As I said, I haven’t been following this case closely and what I know is cobbled together from various H&R posts (usually Balko’s).

    I stand by my assertion, though, that the effects of the beating should have no bearing on whether the prosecutor can prove the elements of the case. It might be relevant information for sentencing (assuming the case gets that far) or plea-bargaining purposes, but not for proving the crime itself. And this holds regardless of whether the crime is charged as murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, or aggravated second degree battery with a dangerous weapon.

  25. Blanks,

    I also see you that you say the effects are relevant for determining the “extent of the charges.” To the extent you mean proving the case, see my post above. To the extent you mean a prosecutor could use that information when discussing possible charges (and plea possibilities), I agree.

  26. “Did he mean to kill him? I doubt that highly.”

    If the kid is knocked-out why continue to beat him?
    Self-defense? No. They attacked him
    Teach him a lesson? No. You can’t teach an unconscious person anything
    Assert physical dominance? That was accomplished by knocking him out.

    The ONLY reason to continue to beat-up a unconscious person is to kill them.

  27. The ONLY reason to continue to beat-up a unconscious person is to kill them.

    I’m not an attorney, but I play one on the internet. Intent to inflict grevious bodily harm, anyone?

  28. “intent to inflict grevious bodily harm”

    So in other words, hurting somebody so bad you don’t care if it kills them or not.

  29. Jonathan Blanks,
    I took a look at the NYT article that you provided, and unless Florida has a vastly different felnoy murder rule, the larger issues in that case are how accomplices are treated. I welcome disagreements, but as far as I remember from law school, felony murder is not an “American legal doctrine that makes accomplices as liable as the actual killer for murders committed during felonies like burglaries, rapes and robberies.” Instead, felony murder is one of the circumstances used to distinguish between first degree and second degree murder. Again, it’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure that in most, if not all, jurisdictions, accomplices before the fact can be tried for the crimes committed no matter what the crimes were.
    I am generally against the felony murder rule, but this was not a good article. First, it seems to be wrong on the law. Second, it oversimplified the situation. There was some evidence that the defendant knew that they were borrowing the car to go rob someone. The situation does seem unfair, but I was not on the jury and did not hear the evidence, so I am unwilling to call it a travesty of justice.

  30. I don’t know the reasons for the attack. just the details of it. but in what I have witnessed in my life:

    1) no one argued self-defense.

    2) Lesson? Perhaps. Certainly more likely than murder. He may have been unconscious, but that doesn’t mean that the subsequent infliction of harm wouldn’t be with him when he woke up.

    3) Dominance? Also possible. Part of a jumping is to send a message to the victim, and ALSO other people onlooking. Jumps are very often public and few shy away from responsibility. If I remember correctly, this kid never saw it coming and was knocked-out instantly but the perps were ID’d by others. (I could be wrong about how public it was. It’s been awhile)

    Cold blooded and cruel, yes. That isn’t the same as wanting to kill the kid.

    And J sub D, THAT makes much more sense.

    But other than the initial blow which knocked him unconscious before the rest of the attack (I only assumed that this would require a concussion which caused my humiliating loss-of-thread earlier. is there a dr./lpn on the thread?) he received only minor injuries. If the ‘beating’ was as bad as some have made it out to be, I don’t think the kid would have been able to walk out of the hospital that night. Such kicking and pummeling would have broken ribs, knocked out teeth, damaged eye sockets, etc. I don’t think he even got stitches.

    The kid was beat up.

    Yes, I know. Hospital. Again, I’m not excusing the attackers as good people. I’m saying they were overcharged.

  31. Sulla –

    I said it touched on it. If it hasn’t already been clear, I’m not a lawyer.

    I’m out. Gotta go to a meeting.

  32. Sulla –

    I said it touched on it. If it hasn’t already been clear, I’m not a lawyer.

    I’m out. Gotta go to a meeting.

    Heh, well even lawyers are fallible 🙂 After taking a quick look at the felony murder rule, I think it is more of an issue than my earlier post suggested, but that accomplice liabilty is still probably the bigger part. I know that lawyers screw things up with “legalese,” but the article is not very helpful even for a non-lawyer audience.

  33. 18 months is excessive for beating someone unconscious, then continuing to beat them? Huh?

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