DA reduces charges for two of the Jena 6

Charges against two of the six black teenagers originally arrested for attempted murder following an attack on a white schoolmate last year were reduced Tuesday to aggravated second-degree battery.Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw are two of six black Jena High School students known as the “Jena Six” who have been charged in connection with the attack on Justin Barker. Five of the six were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit that crime, carrying sentences of up to 80 years in prison.

Some black residents and civil rights advocates from around the country complained that the charges were unfairly harsh.

Another of the six, Mychal Bell, saw his charges reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit same. He was tried and found guilty and could be sentenced to 22 1/2 years on Sept. 20.

Jones’ and Shaw’s charges were reduced Tuesday to the same charges on which Bell was convicted.

The attack on Barker, 18, came amid tense race relations in Jena, a mostly white town of 3,000 in north central Louisiana where racial tensions have grown since incidents that started last school year at Jena High.

The morning after a black student sat under a tree on campus where white students traditionally congregated, three nooses _ lynching symbols in the old South _ were hung in the tree. Students accused of placing them were suspended from the school for a short period, but tensions increased. Fights between black and white students were reported on and off campus.

Then on Dec. 4, six black students were accused of jumping Barker, beating and kicking him at the high school.

Also awaiting trial are Robert Bailey Jr., Bryant Purvis and an unnamed juvenile. Juvenile proceedings are closed to the media, so the status of that trial and the charges are unknown.