US House of Representatives Committee looks into the Jena 6 case

You need to know aout the U.S House hearing about the “Jena 6” case!!!

Watch Jena Six Hearings / Windows Broadband – download video clip
Watch Jena Six Hearings / Windows Broadband video clip
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Watch Jena Six Hearings / Windows Dialup video clip

Racial equality in the U.S. justice system came under scrutiny Tuesday during a U.S. House committee hearing that examined the highly-publicized “Jena 6” case. The case involves six black teenagers who were initially charged with attempted murder in connection with the beating of a white student. VOA’s Robert Raffaele has more.

Emotions ran high Tuesday during a House of Representatives committee hearing looking into the extent of federal intervention in cases of alleged “hate crimes,” especially in the Jena 6 case.

Democratic Party Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee directed her anger at Donald Washington, the U.S. Attorney for Louisiana’s western district, where the Jena 6 incident took place.

“Mr. Washington, tell me why you did not intervene, not by way of the legal system, but the consultation that the U.S. attorneys have with the local district attorneys. Why didn’t you intervene? This (sic) broken lives could have been prevented if you had taken the symbolic responsibility that you have being the first African-American appointed to the western district. I don’t know what else to say! I am outraged!” she said.

After committee chairman John Conyers called for quiet, Washington responded. “First of all, I did intervene. I did engage the district attorney. We had conversations about his charging decisions and things of that sort. At the end of the day, there are only certain things that a United States attorney can do, that a federal representative can do, with respect to a state and how it handles its criminal justice system.”

The case of the so-called Jena 6 drew tens of thousands of protesters to the Louisiana town on September 20.

Local prosecutors initially charged five of six African-American teenage suspects as adults with attempted murder in the beating of a white high school student in 2006.

The incident at the school happened after nooses were hung from a tree — a symbol of the lynching of African-Americans in segregationist times. Three white students accused in that incident were suspended from school, but not prosecuted.

One of the black suspects in the beating, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, served nearly 10 months in jail. Following public outcry, his sentence was reduced to a lesser charge, and later overturned. But last week, a judge sent Bell back to jail for violating probation on a previous conviction.

Since the Jena case made headlines, there have been other high-profile noose incidents, including a noose hung on the office doorknob of a black professor at Columbia University in New York.

The U.S. Justice Department has created a task force to handle those investigations. (more at VOA

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