Southern Justice Is All White, Day and Night

By Sam Johns

What does the acquittal of seven former boot camp guards and a nurse on Friday of manslaughter in the death of Martin Lee Anderson, the 14-year-old Black boy who was hit and kicked by drill instructors in a videotaped altercation, and the conviction of Mychal Bell one of five other black teen-agers charged with attacking a white Jena, Louisiana have in common?

The racist jury system in the South! In other words, the Criminal Justice System in the South is all white, day and night! The judge is white. The jury is white. Your lawyer is white. The walls are white, and the cops that take your Black ass off to jail are white.

How you gone get some play?

A Louisiana teen-ager who spent more than nine months behind bars in connection with the "Jena Six" case is back in jail to complete his sentence in an earlier juvenile case, an official said on Friday.

Mychal Bell, 17, was taken into custody on Thursday night, said LaSalle Parish District Attorney J. Reed Walters.

He was given an 18-month sentence in a juvenile detention facility, according to the Alexandria, Louisiana, Town Talk newspaper.

On the other hand, seven former boot camp guards and a nurse were acquitted Friday of manslaughter in the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit and kicked by the drill instructors in a videotaped altercation.

The video of a limp Martin Lee Anderson being hit and kicked by the guards after he collapsed while exercising drew protests in the state capital and spelled the end of Florida's system of boot camps for juvenile offenders.

Anderson died at a hospital the day after the altercation. While two of the seven former boot camp guards were Black, it doesn’t make any difference because the worse abusers of Blacks in this country are Blacks law enforcement officials who will treat another Black worse than the most racist white cop.

They do it to keep jobs they are not qualified to have in the first place. If they were qualified for the job as a cop, they wouldn’t take. These Niggers are worse that these crackers, any day!

The defendants, however, said they followed the rules at a get-tough facility where young offenders often feigned illness to avoid exercise.

Walters said Bell's sentence in juvenile court was postponed after he and five other black teen-agers were charged with attacking a white Jena, Louisiana, high school classmate in December 2006 after months of racially charged incidents in the central Louisiana town of 3,000.

"As I earlier pointed out, Mychal Bell had four dispositions, as they are known in Louisiana juvenile court, before the so-called Jena Six case occurred," Walters said in a statement.

Walters declined further comment on Bell's incarceration because juvenile cases are not public record under Louisiana law, as in most U.S. states.

The Jena Six case drew national attention when Bell and four others were charged as adults with attempted murder. Another youth was too young to be charged as an adult.

Bell was convicted of a lesser assault charge, which was later overturned on appeal.

Tens of thousands of marchers including the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson descended on Jena last month to protest what many said was excessive punishment of Bell.

He was released on $45,000 bail on September 27.

Two of Bell's attorneys, Carol Powell Lexing and Louis Scott, did not return calls on Friday.

In a statement, Sharpton said Bell's incarceration on Thursday was "cruel and unusual punishment and is a revenge by (district court judge J.P. Mauffray) for the Jena Six movement."

Racial tension at Jena High School had been simmering since August 2006, when a black student sat under a schoolyard tree where white students often gathered. Three white students were suspended for later hanging nooses from the tree.

Bell was the first of the six to face trial. He was convicted as an adult of aggravated second-degree battery.

Bell's attorneys appealed the decision, saying the case should have been heard in juvenile court. A Louisiana appeals court agreed.

Boot camp employees not guilty in boy's death

Pam Bondi, a prosecutor, shows a video during the trial of seven boot camp guards and a nurse.

Their attorneys said that Anderson died not from rough treatment, but from a previously undiagnosed blood disorder.

Former guard Henry McFadden later said he was relieved that the case was over: "We were innocent all along. We knew this truth would come out," he told Court TV.

The boy's mother, Gina Jones, stormed out of the courtroom after the verdict was read. "I cannot see my son no more. Everybody see his or her family members. It's wrong," she said, distraught.

Her lawyer, Benjamin Crump, told reporters outside: "You kill a dog, you go to jail. You kill a little black boy and nothing happens."

Anderson's family had long sought a trial, claiming the state tried to cover up the case, and repeatedly sat through the painful video as it played during trial. Video Watch the boy fall to the ground »

The all-white jury took about 90 minutes to decide whether the guards were responsible for the death of Anderson, who was black. The guards, who are white, black and Asian, stood quietly as the judge read the verdicts.

The defendants would have faced up to 30 years in prison had they been convicted of aggravated manslaughter of child. The jury could have convicted them of lesser charges, including child neglect and culpable negligence, but did not.

Aside from hitting Anderson, the guards dragged him around the military-style camp's exercise yard and forced him to inhale ammonia capsules in what they said was an attempt to revive him. The nurse stood by watching.

Defense attorneys argued that the guards properly handled what they thought was a juvenile offender faking illness to avoid exercising on his first day in the camp. He was brought there for violating probation for stealing his grandmother's car and trespassing at a school.

The defense said Anderson's death was unavoidable because he had undiagnosed sickle cell trait, a usually harmless blood disorder that can hinder blood cells' ability to carry oxygen during physical stress.

Prosecutors said the eight defendants neglected the boy by neglecting his medical needs after he collapsed while running laps. They said the defendants suffocated Anderson by covering his mouth and forcing him to inhale ammonia.

"You may not hear anything coming out of that video sound-wise, but that video is screaming to you in a loud, clear voice, it is telling you that these defendants killed Martin Lee Anderson," prosecutor Scott Harmon said in his closing argument.

Anderson died January 6, 2006, when he was taken off life support, a day after the altercation. The case quickly grew and shook up the state's boot camp and law enforcement system amid the boy's family alleging a cover-up.

An initial autopsy by the medical examiner for Bay County found Anderson died of natural causes from sickle cell trait. A second autopsy was ordered and another doctor concluded that the guards suffocated Anderson through their repeated use of ammonia capsules and by covering his mouth.

The death led to the resignation of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Guy Tunnell, who established the camp when he was Bay County sheriff.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Mark Ober, state attorney for Hillsborough County, as special prosecutor in the case. Bush also scolded Tunnell for exchanging e-mails with current Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, in which he criticized those who questioned the effectiveness of the boot camp concept. He also made light of the protesters in the state capital.

The Legislature agreed to pay Anderson's family $5 million earlier this year to settle civil claims.

he finding angered the boy's parents, who launched a lawsuit after publication of the videotape. The video showed the boy was kicked and hit repeatedly by guards.

The parents initially accused Gov. Jeb Bush, the younger brother of U.S. President George W. Bush, of a cover-up. The governor later condemned the actions of the guards and appointed a special prosecutor who brought the manslaughter charges in November.

A second autopsy found the boy died of suffocation because his mouth was blocked and he was forced to inhale ammonia smelling salts, which resulted in a blockage of his airway. The medical examiner said he died as a result of the "actions of the guards."

The U.S. Justice Department said it was looking into the case and would "take appropriate action if the evidence indicates a prosecutable violation of federal criminal civil rights statutes."

After the verdict, about 300 protesters, mainly students, marched to the capitol in Tallahassee, chanting "no justice, no peace." They were met by a handful of state lawmakers who said they were incredulous at the ruling.

"This was not something he (Anderson) wrote in a journal. This is something that we actually saw. We saw him being murdered on television," said Frederica Wilson, a state senator from Miami.

Back to home page