JENA, LA – The district attorney handling the case of Mychal Bell, a black teenager accused of beating a white classmate in Jena, Louisiana, said Thursday that he would not challenge the decision to send the case to juvenile court. Bell was convicted as an adult on battery and conspiracy charges, but a state appeals court ruled that the teenager should have been tried in juvenile court.
LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters told reporters that he decided not to appeal the ruling because it was in the best interest of victim Justin Barker and his family to resolve the case quickly.
Walters said he did not know if the ruling would allow Bell to be released from jail.
"Before his conviction in adult court, the judge had set a bail at $90,000. I do not know whether that bail will now be reinstated or whether the judge may set a different bail," he said. "In any case, it is not for me to decide. Setting bail is strictly a matter for the court."
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Congressional Black Caucus is asking the Justice Department to investigate possible civil rights violations in the "Jena 6" case that sparked a massive protest in Louisiana last week.
"This shocking case has focused national and international attention on what appears to be an unbelievable example of the separate and unequal justice that was once commonplace in the Deep South," the group of 43 lawmakers said in a letter to Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department has been closely monitoring the case of six black high school teens arrested for beating a white classmate in Jena, La. He said the department also is investigating allegations of threats made against the students and their families.
"Since these investigations are ongoing, the department cannot comment any further," Roehrkasse said.
The caucus also sent a separate letter asking Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to pardon 17-year-old Mychal Bell, the black teen convicted in adult court of aggravated second-degree battery after the charge was reduced from attempted murder.