A coalition of major media companies is seeking to open the criminal trial of Mychal Bell, one of the teenage defendants in the controversial Jena 6 case in Louisiana, the Chicago Tribune reports. A motion filed in LaSalle Parish District Court, challenges decisions by Judge J.P. Mauffray to close the proceedings in Bell’s juvenile case and order all the parties involved not to speak about it. Mauffray’s orders run counter to Louisiana juvenile laws, precedents set by the Louisiana Supreme Court and provisions of both the Louisiana and U.S. Constitutions, the petition argues.
The Chicago Tribune is the lead plaintiff petition, joined by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Co., The Associated Press, Hearst Corp., Belo Corp., Gannett Co., CNN, and ABC News. Bell, 17, is one of six black teenagers charged in an attack last Dec. 4 at Jena High School in which a white student was beaten and knocked briefly unconscious. That incident capped months of racial tensions in the mostly white Louisiana town that was set off after three white youths hung nooses from a tree at the high school. LaSalle Parish District Attorney. Reed Walters initially charged the six black youths with attempted murder, though the white victim was treated and released at a hospital. After the case gained national attention in a Chicago Tribune story, Walters reduced the charges to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery.