Craig Franklin never dreamed he’d be writing a feature story for the Christian Science Monitor, just as Reed Walters never expected to see his name gracing the pages of the New York Times Op-Ed page.
There is an old rule in journalism; when you can’t wring another drop of juice out of a story, flip the script–tell the world the press has been getting it wrong. Telling the “real story” about Jena has become a cottage industry.
“Jena” has always been a disagreement between Alan Bean and Craig Franklin, co-editor of the Jena Times. Craig and his father, Sammy Franklin devoted several gallons of ink to the noose incident and the arrest and prosecution of the Jena 6. My “Responding to the Crisis in Jena, Louisiana” narrative owed much to the copious detail of their reporting. The Franklins publish a first class small-town newspaper.
Those of you who have been reading my posts won’t need to read Franklin’s deathless prose (you’ve heard it all before) or my responses (I will touch on a few new issues, but not many). But if you are new to this debate, this back-and-forth discussion should proove instructive. My comments appear in italics.
Media myths about the Jena 6
A local journalist tells the story you haven’t heard.
By now, almost everyone in America has heard of Jena, La., because they’ve all heard the story of the “Jena 6.” White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests – the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.
There’s just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.
I would suggest that coverage of the march to Iraq would constitute a much more serious media meltdown. As you will see from later comments, most of the “myths” Franklin addresses rarely appear in mainstream reporting. Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune, the first mainstream journalist to cover the story on the national level, spent a week in Jena before writing a word. Dozens of reporters have followed in his footsteps (to the point where overwhelmed Jena residents refuse to comment) and most of them have been equally careful.
I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning.
Actually, Abbey Brown of the Alexandria TownTalk and Tony Brown, an Alexandria journalist and talk show host, have given careful attention to this story from the day nooses appeared on a tree at the high school.
The reason the Jena cases have been propelled into the world spotlight is two-fold: First, because local officials did not speak publicly early on about the true events of the past year, the media simply formed their stories based on one-side’s statements – the Jena 6. Second, the media were downright lazy in their efforts to find the truth. Often, they simply reported what they’d read on blogs, which expressed only one side of the issue.
Few mainstream reporters have repeated blog gossip–they prefer to copy one another.
The real story of Jena and the Jena 6 is quite different from what the national media presented. It’s time to set the record straight.
Myth 1: The Whites-Only Tree. There has never been a “whites-only” tree at Jena High School. Students of all races sat underneath this tree. When a student asked during an assembly at the start of school last year if anyone could sit under the tree, it evoked laughter from everyone present – blacks and whites. As reported by students in the assembly, the question was asked to make a joke and to drag out the assembly and avoid class.
The “lazy Negro theory” was invented to address an obvious question: “If the Jena high school courtyard is as integrated as Mr. Franklin claims, why did Kenneth Purvis ask if he could sit under the tree? I do not know if Mr. Purvis was laughing nervously as he asked the question, and I don’t see that it matters. Initially, Jena High students, black and white, freely admitted that the courtyard has always been segregated–the sidewalk serving as the line of demarcation. While it is true that black students occasionally wandered to the white side of the courtyard, this was not typical behavior.
Hence the question. It should also be noted that Kenneth and a few friends tested out their new freedom by sitting under the tree after school.
Myth 2: Nooses a Signal to Black Students. An investigation by school officials, police, and an FBI agent revealed the true motivation behind the placing of two nooses in the tree the day after the assembly. According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. (The students apparently got the idea from watching episodes of “Lonesome Dove.”) The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history. When informed of this history by school officials, they became visibly remorseful because they had many black friends. Another myth concerns their punishment, which was not a three-day suspension, but rather nine days at an alternative facility followed by two weeks of in-school suspension, Saturday detentions, attendance at Discipline Court, and evaluation by licensed mental-health professionals. The students who hung the nooses have not publicly come forward to give their version of events.
There are actually three competing noose theories. The default position is well known: the nooses were hung in response to Kenneth Purvis’s question and the bold action of actually sitting under the tree.
Recently, Jena residents have suggested the nooses were aimed at supporters of Jena’s next football opponent–the Mustangs.
The Lonesome Dove theory was initially freestanding: the kids watched the Western on television and were so impressed with the hanging scene, they decided to hang a few nooses of their own. But no one could explain why they chose this particular tree, or why the nooses appeared the day after Kenneth’s question and the Principal’s answer.
Now we learn that the nooses were a poke at white members of the rodeo team. We are to believe that some white kids on the rodeo team were playfully suggesting that they were going to string up other white members of the team because . . .
You see the problem. What could possibly follow the “because”? Mr. Franklins’ desperation is painfully evident at this point. He’s doing the best with what he’s got–but he ain’t got much. You can hardly blame the mainstream media (or any sensible person) for preferring the original explanation. It has the advantage of making sense.
Finally, Franklin’s theory can’t explain why then-principal Scott Windham was so horrified by the noose incident that he recommended expulsion for the school year. If this was simply a white-on-white practical joke, Windham’s response can only be seen as a bizarre over-reaction.
The logical conclusion is that Windham was never exposed to the theory Mr. Franklin is selling. Is it just a coincidence that Mr. Windham was quickly shuffled to a less controversial position within the school administration. Perhaps, but the timing raises questions. The mainstream media, for better or worse, has given very little attention to this issue.
Myth 3: Nooses Were a Hate Crime. Although many believe the three white students should have been prosecuted for a hate crime for hanging the nooses, the incident did not meet the legal criteria for a federal hate crime. It also did not meet the standard for Louisiana’s hate-crime statute, and though widely condemned by all officials, there was no crime to charge the youths with.
Last week, US Attorney Don Washington, finally admitted that the noose hanging in Jena constituted a hate crime under federal law. Richard Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center has argued persuasively that the act also satisfies the Louisiana definition of a hate crime.
But, like Mr. Cohen, I agree with the basic thrust of Franklin’s argument here–the noose hangers should not have been charged with committing a hate crime because they are juveniles who didn’t understand the full import of their actions. I have no doubt that the noose hangers would have felt remorse if the horror of the noose symbol had been adequately explained to them; but I remain skeptical. Now that the “remorseful noose boys” theory is on the table, I’m sure the media will report it; but this new wrinkle only surfaced last week.
Myth 4: DA’s Threat to Black Students. When District Attorney Reed Walters spoke to Jena High students at an assembly in September, he did not tell black students that he could make their life miserable with “the stroke of a pen.” Instead, according to Walters, “two or three girls, white girls, were chit-chatting on their cellphones or playing with their cellphones right in the middle of my dissertation. I got a little irritated at them and said, ‘Pay attention to me. I am right now having to deal with an aggravated rape case where I’ve got to decide whether the death penalty applies or not.’ I said, ‘Look, I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With the stroke of a pen I can make your life miserable so I want you to call me before you do something stupid.’”
Mr. Walters had been called to the assembly by police, who had been at the school earlier that day dealing with some students who were causing disturbances. Teachers and students have confirmed Walters’s version of events.
No one has ever suggested that Reed Walters threatened to make the lives of students “miserable”–he said he could make their lives disappear (a slight difference in tone, you’ll agree). Also, we must remember that school assemblies in Jena have traditionally been segregated. That’s the way it was when the high school integrated in 1970; and that’s the way it has remained. Black students insist he was looking at the black side of the auditorium when he issued his threat; but I don’t think it matters where he was looking.
We are being asked to believe that an irate Reed Walters told chatty white girls that he would use the power of his office to destroy their lives if they didn’t shut up. This is nonsense; but even if it’s true, is that the kind of prosecutor you want in the LaSalle Parish courthouse?
The mainstream media has never done much with this episode–even though Reed Walters has admitted under oath that he uttered these threats four months after I attributed the words to him back in February. Walters even explained the context of his remarks (and it had nothing to do with talkative white girls). At a June 12th hearing, Mr. Walters explained that he didn’t see why he needed to take time away from his important work simply because high school students had blown the noose incident out of proportion. The black and white students, he testified, should have been able to “work things out on their own”.
Reed Walters understood why he was standing in the school auditorium. Black students and their parents were outraged by the decision to treat the noose incident as a childish prank. Earlier that day, virtually the entire black student body, led by the boys we now know as the Jena 6, had taken a defiant stand under the now-famous tree. Most white kids had no problem with this gesture–but some took offense. Push was coming to shove. Racially charged shoving matches had been reported. Tensions ran high.
Reed Walters came to Jena High School to calm things down. Like Superintendent Breithaupt, Reed Walters believed the students and their parents were making a mountain out of a molehill. His message was simple: drop the protest or I will use my prosecutorial authority to make you wish you had. Settle down and I’ll be your best friend; keep fussing and I’ll be your worst enemy.
Given the context, that is the only message that makes sense. What else could Walters have been driving at. His words were addressed to the kids causing the fuss–and those kids were all black. True, a vocal minority within the white student body took violent exception to the protest under the tree–but then, so did Mr. Walters.
Mr. Franklin neglects to mention that black parents attended a school board meeting in the wake of the disciplinary committees’ decision to over-rule the recommendation of the principal. The parents were refused a hearing because they weren’t on the agenda. Shortly thereafter, the same parents made a brief presentation to the school board (a meeting covered in detail by the Jena Times) and were greeted with silence.
Why, if the school board had been swayed by the white-on-white hate crime theory did they not explain themselves to these parents? The two groups had a simple difference of opinion and eight of the nine board members were white. They could do whatever they wanted to do, so they sat in stony silence.
Reed Walters was right about one thing–in “Lord of the Flies” fashion, the white and black students were left to “work things out for themselves”. And sure enough, the prosecutor was waiting at the end of the trail, pen in hand.
The mainstream media, I must stress again, has never understood how damning all of this is for the DA. Even bloggers tend to pass over the pen incident.
Myth 5: The Fair Barn Party Incident. On Dec. 1, 2006, a private party – not an all-white party as reported – was held at the local community center called the Fair Barn. Robert Bailey Jr., soon to be one of the Jena 6, came to the party with others seeking admittance.
When they were denied entrance by the renter of the facility, a white male named Justin Sloan (not a Jena High student) at the party attacked Bailey and hit him in the face with his fist. This is reported in witness statements to police, including the victim, Robert Bailey, Jr.
Months later, Bailey contended he was hit in the head with a beer bottle and required stitches. No medical records show this ever occurred. Mr. Sloan was prosecuted for simple battery, which according to Louisiana law, is the proper charge for hitting someone with a fist.
Robert Bailey Jr. didn’t wait several months to come up with the “bottle” theory; that was his story when I interviewed him for two hours in the LaSalle Parish jail back in January of 2007 and he has never deviated from it. The fact that he didn’t mention every detail of the assault in his report to the police doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But the bottle rarely appears in mainstream reporting because the Fair Barn incident is rarely discussed.
The 22 year-0ld white male who assaulted Robert Bailey as he entered the Fair Barn continued his aggressively violent behavior even after adult chaperons had restrained him. Hostilities continued in the parking lot. The “lone assailant” theory runs contrary to everything we know about adolescent fights. When your buddy throws a punch, you jump in to show you’ve got his back. The same social dynamic was on display, with tragic consequences, at the high school a few days later.
There are several alternative explanations for the assault on Robert Bailey. Some Jena residents have suggested that Robert was attacked because he was leaving the dance with a white girl. Eye witness testimony lends no support to this version of events; I mention it only to indicate the power of rumor. The story was told, and a lot of people believed it.
The common explanation, repeated here by Editor Franklin, is that Robert Bailey was trespassing and his assailant found this offensive. Robert claims he was allowed to enter the dance with the proviso that he not cause trouble. That last bit adds credence to the story–it’s not the sort of thing Robert would have invented.
Several eye witnesses back up Robert’s account. Let’s leave it to the lawyers to sort this one out, but it would be surprising for the police to limit the filing of charges to Robert’s attacker if they believed Robert had openly defied the party gatekeeper. If that had been true, a charge of disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct would have been virtually inevitable.
The important question is never addressed: Why was Robert’s attacker so angry? There is a backstory here that has never been told. This wasn’t the first encounter between the two young men. They, and their friends, had been feuding ever since the noose incident.
Myth 6: The “Gotta-Go” Grocery Incident. On Dec. 2, 2006, Bailey and two other black Jena High students were involved in an altercation at this local convenience store, stemming from the incident that occurred the night before. The three were accused by police of jumping a white man as he entered the store and stealing a shotgun from him. The two parties gave conflicting statements to police. However, two unrelated eye witnesses of the event gave statements that corresponded with that of the white male.
I congratulate Mr. Franklin for his frank admission that the Gotta Go incident was related to the fight at the Fair Barn. But how are the two events related? Robert claims that Matt Wyndham, the boy with the shotgun, was one of the people who jumped him at the dance. The Gotta Go incident cannot be understood unless this connection is recognized.
Again, the mainstream media generally skips over the convenience store incident; bloggers are much more likely to give the altercation the attention it deserves.
Everyone agrees that Robert Bailey and two friends, Theo Shaw and Ryan Simmons, were exiting the Gotta Go just as Matt Wyndham was approaching the store, that a fight ensued, and that a shotgun was involved in some way. Two explanations have been put forward.
Mr. Wyndam seems to suggest that Robert and his friends stole his gun and then beat him up. This is why the three boys stand accused of theft and assault.
One thing is clear: Robert was confronting a kid who had jumped him the night before. Robert had a score to settle.
Fearing the worst, Matt Windham ran back to his vehicle to get his pistol-grip, pump-action shotgun. It is not unusual for young men who live in the country around Jena to ride with this sort of weapon. It is also clear that Windham had time to remove the shotgun from behind the seat of his truck before Robert arrived on the scene.
Now, imagine that you are Robert Bailey. Maybe you just wanted to have a few words with your assailant; maybe you wanted a taste of revenge. Who knows? What we do know is that Robert followed Wyndham to his truck and saw him pull out a shotgun. Theo and Ryan dived behind parked vehicles. Robert would have done the same, but he was too close to the man with the gun; so he grabbed Wyndham’s arm and they wrestled for control of the weapon.
Now, imagine you are Theo Shaw and Ryan Simmons. You see your buddy wrestling for control of a dangerous weapon with the kid who helped beat him up the night before. What do you do? You help your friend. In the circumstances, no other course of action is even thinkable.
Nor is it surprising that, collectively, Robert and his friends were able to get the gun away from their would-be assassin. But now they’ve got another problem; what do they do with the gun? Hand it back?
Of course they should have called the police. But you’ve got the gun now, and you just got physical with the gun owner. How is a white officer going to interpret the scene? You don’t know, but you can guess. So you run off with the gun and stash it in the old red truck behind Robert’s trailer.
This entire scenario is unthinkable if you take the assault at the Fair Barn out of the equation. Robert had met white boys coming out of the Gotta Go a thousand times; Matt Wyndham had met black boys under similar circumstances just as often. So why do we have a violent interlude on this particular morning? Because there had been a fight the night before. And why had there been a fight the night before? Because two groups of boys (white friends of the noose hangers, and black football players) had maintained a running feud ever since Reed Walters and Roy Breithaupt made their rulings and issued their threats.
Myth 7: The Schoolyard Fight. The event on Dec. 4, 2006 was consistently labeled a “schoolyard fight.” But witnesses described something much more horrific. Several black students, including those now known as the Jena 6, barricaded an exit to the school’s gym as they lay in wait for Justin Barker to exit. (It remains unclear why Mr. Barker was specifically targeted.)
When Barker tried to leave through another exit, court testimony indicates, he was hit from behind by Mychal Bell. Multiple witnesses confirmed that Barker was immediately knocked unconscious and lay on the floor defenseless as several other black students joined together to kick and stomp him, with most of the blows striking his head. Police speculate that the motivation for the attack was related to the racially charged fights that had occurred during the previous weekend.
First, Mr. Franklin suggests that the assault on Justin Barker was an isolated incident; then he says it may have been a carryover from the white-initiated violence of the weekend. Which explanation makes sense?
Franklin is certainly right that the assault on Barker should not be characterized as a “fight” in the usual sense; neither should the assault on Robert Bailey at the Fair Barn. Both boys were cold cocked–the primary difference being that Justin Barker was knocked unconscious by the initial blow while Robert Bailey was not.
The details of the assault are difficult to establish on the basis of eyewitness testimony. (I obtained copies of the eyewitness statements before a single defense attorney had seen them.) Only one witness, Christy Martin, a teacher, advances the barricade theory suggested above. The same teacher is the only witness able to provide a detailed list of who attacked Justin Barker (although she admits she did not witness the attack because of the alleged barricade).
A statement from yet another teacher says that he gave Ms. Martin a list of black students who had been acting up during the lunch hour. I will leave it to defense counsel to piece all of this together, but if you see a pattern developing, your eyes do not deceive you.
The mainstream media has never minimized the extent of Justin Barker’s injuries. Bloggers, on both sides of this issue, have been guilty of distorting the facts to their own advantage. Supporters of the Jena 6 frequently dismiss the incident as a schoolyard dust-up. No one who has seen the pictures of Mr. Barker’s bruised face would make that claim–the kid absorbed a genuine thumping.
We must remember that Mr. Barker was unconscious, and therefore defenseless, when he hit the ground. There can be no question that he was kicked by black students (although the identity of the kickers is difficult to establish). It is also likely that anyone rushing to the scene or away from the scene (and eyewitness accounts suggest a wild scramble in both directions) could have added to the damage, and it is difficult to know with any certainty how the damage was done. But just look at the pictures and you can only sympathize with Justin Barker and his family. If my kid was beaten that badly I would be devastated, so I have never had any trouble understanding how the Barker family feels about all of this.
But the extent of Justin’s injuries can be exaggerated. No bones were broken (a surprising fact considering the alleged murderous intent of the alleged assailants); no organs were damaged, and although there was a great deal of bruising and swelling, few serious cuts have been reported. My respect for the Barker family makes me reluctant to relate these facts, but at the end of the day, Justin was up and walking. There was no spring in his step, to be sure, and his face looked almost as bad as it had looked when pictures were taken at the hospital. His injuries, in short, were both serious and superficial; small wonder, then, that pundits on both sides of the divide would spin things to their advantage.
The mainstream media, however, has generally exercised great caution in this regard.
Myth 8: The Attack Is Linked to the Nooses. Nowhere in any of the evidence, including statements by witnesses and defendants, is there any reference to the noose incident that occurred three months prior. This was confirmed by the United States attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, Donald Washington, on numerous occasions.
Eyewitnesses didn’t mention the noose incident because they weren’t asked about it. The primary difference between my account of the facts and Mr. Franklin’s is that he has always presented the assault on Mr. Barker as an isolated incident while I see it as the final act in a tragic string of intimately related events beginning with Kenneth Purvis’s question.
The mainstream media falls somewhere between my version of the truth and Mr. Franklin’s. No one should be surprised that public officials in Jena are threatened by my narrative–they should be. If any of these cases come to trial (and Mr. Franklin should be praying that they don’t) far more connective tissue will come to public attention.
Myth 9: Mychal Bell’s All-White Jury. While it is true that Mychal Bell was convicted as an adult by an all-white jury in June (a conviction that was later overturned with his case sent to juvenile court), the jury selection process was completely legal and withstood an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Court officials insist that several black residents were summoned for jury duty, but did not appear.
Craig Franklin is absolutely right about this. Few black residents qualified for jury duty and most of the handful of people who did qualify didn’t show up for health reasons, because they were acquainted with the defendant, or because they knew the prosecutor would strike them. Minority jurors are always the first strikes when, as is usually the case, the defendant is a minority. This is all standard procedure, however, and says nothing about LaSalle Parish per se.
Myth 10: Jena 6 as Model Youth. While some members were simply caught up in the moment, others had criminal records. Bell had at least four prior violent-crime arrests before the December attack, and was on probation during most of this year.
Notice that Mr. Franklin stops with Mychal Bell’s well-publicized juvenile record. No one in the mainstream media has suggested that the defendants were “Model Youth”. In fact, the disturbing nature of the allegations would have killed this story if the strange behavior of public officials didn’t raise questions about the quality of justice the Jena 6 could expect in LaSalle Parish.
These are normal, small-town kids. African Americans tend to identify with the Jena 6 because their story is so familiar, not because they see these kids as latter day incarnations of sister Rosa. Black Americans know that ordinary kids can get swept up in a pathological social dynamic not of their own making.
Myth 11: Jena Is One of the Most Racist Towns in America. Actually, Jena is a wonderful place to live for both whites and blacks. The media’s distortion and outright lies concerning the case have given this rural Louisiana town a label it doesn’t deserve.
In general, I am in agreement with Mr. Franklin here. Bloggers and radio personalities have frequently exaggerated the extent and the nature of the racism on display in Jena. Civil rights leaders, for the most part, have been more cautious on this score. I have always argued that Jena is a mirror for America, and I stand by that assessment.
It must be said, however, that LaSalle Parish has retained some disturbing vestiges of the old Jim Crow South that need to be faced honestly and openly (although, I admit that the current environment is hardly conducive to serious self-examination). Kenneth Purvis asked a question that Jena officials couldn’t answer–the issue wasn’t considered a proper subject for public conversation. Did an informal, but influential, color line exist on the high school campus? If so, should Jena renounce that line and turn over a new leaf? The adults of Jena weren’t ready for these questions and now the kids, black and white, are paying the price.
Myth 12: Two Levels of Justice. Outside protesters were convinced that the prosecution of the Jena 6 was proof of a racially biased system of justice. But the US Justice Department’s investigation found no evidence to support such a claim. In fact, the percentage of blacks and whites prosecuted matches the parish’s population statistics.
It must be remembered that the US Justice Department is part of the American criminal justice system. Donald Washington was right: most of what happened in Jena was legal. That is because we have decided to gift prosecutors and judges with great discretion. Mr. Walters’ threat to black students, the prejudicial announcement he published in the Jena Times in mid-December, 2006, and a number of his recent comments are clearly grounds for recusal. Ethical standards have been violated. But were these acts illegal? We’ll see–the ethical bar for prosecutors is set very low.
Friends of Justice decided to bring this case to the attention of the nation because it illustrates what is happening, albeit in less spectacular fashion, across the nation. We aren’t trying to get the Jena 6 off; we’ve been trying to get them some justice. The next few stages in the legal process will demonstrate whether we have succeeded. I suspect we have. There will be no repeat of the fiasco that was the Mychal Bell trial.
Regrettably, however, the mainstream media has rarely asked what the Jena story says about the fairness of the American criminal justice system. “Objective” journalists aren’t supposed to even address that question–they can only repeat the critique advanced by their sources. And thus far, sources like Al Sharpton haven’t settled on a consistent message. One moment, Jena is a throwback to Jim Crow justice; the next moment, Jena is about contemporary America. Al Sharpton et al, need to clarify their message.
The media has created the illusion that Jena is a uniquely racist community by asking Jena residents the wrong question: “Do you think this is a racist town?”
Black residents, with few exceptions, do see Jena as a racist community; white folks disagree. Conflicting quotations give the appearance of a town divided along racial lines. Tulia, Texas received the same treatment, with similar results.
Journalists should be asking if the Jena 6 can get a semblance of Justice in LaSalle Parish. They should be asking if the plight of the Jena 6 suggests unresolved issues within the American criminal justice system. Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn’t like that question because they fear that Middle America doesn’t like it.
These are just 12 of many myths that are portrayed as fact in the media concerning the Jena cases. (A more thorough review of all events can be found at www.thejenatimes.net – click on Chronological Order of Events.)
Click on this link and you will get an expanded version of the official-friendly history the Jena Times has been sponsoring from the beginning.
As with the Duke Lacrosse case, the truth about Jena will eventually be known. But the town of Jena isn’t expecting any apologies from the media. They will probably never admit their error and have already moved on to the next “big” story. Meanwhile in Jena, residents are getting back to their regular routines, where friends are friends regardless of race. Just as it has been all along.
Craig Franklin is right to compare Jena with the Duke Lacrosse imbroglio. Mike Nifong and Reed Walters presented the public with a version of history unsupported by the facts and simple common sense. If Mr. Nifong’s victims had been represented by the lamentable Blaine Williams they would have been convicted at the end of a brief and unheralded trial. Had Mr. NJifong focused on an anonymous college with low-status students, the media wouldn’t have paid much attention. Thanks to highly paid, motivated defense counsel, the Duke defendants were able to clear their names. Now that the Jena 6 enjoy the same advantage, the scales in the hands of the blind lady are beginning to tilt in the direction of justice.
• Craig Franklin is assistant editor of The Jena Times.
Alan Bean is executive director of Friends of Justice.