The Families of the Jena 6 Speak

This is an interview by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! with the Parents of the young boys who had a school fight over the right to sit under the 'white tree' in 2006. They are now being prosecuted one by one for attempted aggravated murder in Jena, Louisiana, USA.

We speak with the parents of three of the 'Jena Six' - the black high school students charged with attempted murder for a school fight in which a white student was beaten up. We are joined by Caseptla Bailey, the mother of Robert Bailey and Tina Jones, the mother of Bryant Purvis - both of their sons are awaiting trial on charges of attempted second degree murder and conspiracy. We also speak with Marcus Jones, his son, Mychal Bell, was the first of the Jena Six to go on trial. He was convicted just over a week ago of aggravated battery and conspiracy. He faces up to 22 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 31st. [includes rush transcript]

We are also joined from Baton Rouge by Catrina Wallace, the secretary of the LaSalle Parish chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She is also Robert Baily's stepsister. As well as Jordan Flaherty, a journalist and community organizer in New Orleans who broke the story about the Jena Six. He is an editor of Left Turn magazine.

* Marcus Jones, father of Mychal Bell. His son was recently convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. He faces up to 22 years in prison.
* Caseptla Bailey, mother of Robert Bailey Jr., one of the Jena 6. Her son is facing charges of attempted second degree murder and conspiracy.
* Tina Jones, mother of Bryant Purvis, one of the Jena 6. Her son is facing charges of attempted second degree murder and conspiracy.
* Catrina Wallace, Robert Bailey's stepsister and the secretary of the LaSalle Parish chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
* Jordan Flaherty, journalist and community organizer in New Orleans who broke the story about Jena. He is an editor of Left Turn magazine.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the parents of three of the Jena 6 joining us from Louisiana. Caseptla Bailey is the mother of Robert Bailey. Tina Jones is the mother of Bryant Purvis. Both of their sons are awaiting trial on charges of attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy. They join us from Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge. Joining us on the telephone from Jena is Marcus Jones. His son Mychal Bell was the first of the Jena 6 to go on trial. He was convicted just over a week ago of aggravated battery and conspiracy. He faces up to twenty-two years in prison when he’s sentenced July 31st.

We'll begin with Mychal Bell, because I know that you need to go back to work, talking to us from work. Marcus Jones, thank you very much for being with us.

MARCUS JONES: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us your reaction to the conviction of your son and the time he faces in jail.

MARCUS JONES: I was furious and real mad about the conviction, ’cause I know that it was wrong. I know my son is innocent of the charges that the DA put on him, and it's just wrong. You know, this is just a 2007 modern-day court lynching here.

AMY GOODMAN: In your own words, tell us what you understand took place.

MARCUS JONES: Well, what I understand that took place is wrongdoing. The judge let the DA just really just choose an all-white jury. There was an all-white jury. Relatives of some of the jurors was some of the witnesses, too. One of the boys that testified for Barker was one of the boys that hung up the nooses at the high school.

AMY GOODMAN: Was that brought out in the trial?

MARCUS JONES: No, no, that wasn’t brought out in the trial. See, we had a complication with my son’s court-appointed lawyer, and come to find out that he was working with the DA for to get my son convicted.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the lead-up to the fight and then how you understand the fight taking place, Marcus Jones.

MARCUS JONES: Well, my understanding of how the fight took place is Barker was telling some of the boys earlier that morning, calling them nigger and telling them about the fight that happened the previous weekend now. So the majority of the creation of the fight was due to Justin Barker's racial remarks. But, see, we’ve got to go back now to understand, see, the DA created this whole racial atmosphere, where he didn't do nothing to the boys that hung up the nooses, so that gave the message to all the black kids, well, the white kids will do what they want to do and get away with it. And that ain’t right. I don't care what town or city you live in, that is not right.

AMY GOODMAN: The court-appointed lawyer, when the jury pool was all white, did he challenge it at all?

MARCUS JONES: No. He did not challenge it. Now, see, remember, before the jury was even selected, the judge had called all the witnesses up front. So he put me and my son’s mother on the witness list, not informing us that he was going to do that. Now, what made him do that? I don't know. But right then and there, we smelled a rat. So the judge had put a gag order on all the witnesses, where they couldn't be present in the courtroom, couldn't talk to the press, couldn’t talk to nobody outside court room about the case. So right then and there, we -- I mean, you know, we smelled a rat then.

AMY GOODMAN: And were you called up to testify?

MARCUS JONES: No, no, no, no.

AMY GOODMAN: So you couldn't speak about the case, and you were kept out of the trial?

MARCUS JONES: Yes, the whole while. We was allowed -- only time we was allowed back in the courtroom, when the verdict came back.

AMY GOODMAN: Did your son's court-appointed attorney call up any witnesses?

MARCUS JONES: No. He did not put up no kind of defense at all. He did not call one witness. There was a coach that had wrote a statement out saying that he didn't -- that Mychal wasn't the one was involved in the fight, that didn't hit Barker --

AMY GOODMAN: Justin Barker.

MARCUS JONES: -- so he didn't even subpoena him. Now, remember, in the school system, a teacher or a coach, any administration word or statement is more credible than any student. So he didn't, I mean, didn't even call, I mean, had the coach subpoenaed for to come testify for Mychal. And he was Mychal's key witness.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your plans now? Are you keeping this attorney? This attorney wanted Mychal to plea bargain?

MARCUS JONES: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did Mychal choose not to plea bargain?

MARCUS JONES: ’Cause he wanted Mychal to take a plea. Well, see, you’ve got to remember, any time a plea bargain be thrown on the table for any man here in LaSalle Parish, that person is innocent. Here in LaSalle Parish, whenever a black man is offered a plea bargain, he is innocent. That’s a dead giveaway here in the South. So he was putting pressure on Mychal, threatening him, you know, about the time he gonna get and, oh, he ain’t going to be able to play no football no more, and his life is over with, you know, just that old Jim Crow intimidation method that he was using for to try to get my son to take a plea bargain. So he lowered the charges down on my son from a lesser charge, but it was still -- all of it was still felonies. But he wanted Mychal to give away information for the plea bargain, give away information about who all else was involved in there. Well, why you gonna try to trick him and lie to him for to do something that he's innocent of? If you have all this hardcore information about who was involved in it, you shouldn't even be trying to manipulate no young man's mind like that. And, I mean, the court-appointed lawyer, I mean, he was just playing right along, right along with the DA.



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Donate to the Jena Six Legal Defense Fund (the court fight is next):

Jena 6 Defense Committee
PO BOX 2798
Jena, LA 71342

*Update(9/27)* Mychal Bell Makes Bail

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