As I noted earlier, this case is a situation in which everybody has to be on the lookout for "confirmation bias" -- the natural human tendency to view the facts in the light most favorable to preexisting beliefs. It's quite possible that I myself fell for that, to some degree, when I wrote my Cowardly Thugs post. At the time I wrote that post, I was not aware that some claims of factual innocence had been made. Since then, my position has evolved somewhat. I read one report that, if true, would raise serious questions as to the procedural fairness of Bell's trial.
While I still suspect these are the guys who did the deed, if I were writing my Cowardly Thugs post today, I would clarify that Barker's attackers are cowardly thugs, whoever they might turn out to be. That is, I would admit to at least some uncertainty as to their guilt. I still think that a one-against-many beatdown is cowardly, but I admit of some uncertainty as to whether these guys are the cowards in question.
Since my prior posts on this matter, a couple of interesting factual tidbits have come my way. First, this local article, which I found courtesy of Kevin at Megan McArdle's, as well as this informative writeup bit by a local minister, via Steve Sailer.
The local news article helps to flesh out some of the facts, and also exposes a perspective I've tried to highlight here: that of the victim:
All you hear is, 'Justice for the Jena Six,'" David Barker said of his son's case. "I wouldn't mind justice for the one. It doesn't matter the race -- what matters is what happened to our son."
Absolutely right. The victim is getting lost in all this -- lost or even attacked. While claims of racism need to be addressed, too many people are losing sight of the fact that there was a real-live victim here. Even worse, some people are going so far as to claim that he deserved it. For example, one of my own commenters said, Caps Lock and all, "SOMETHING TELL ME JUSTIN WILL THINK TWICE BEFOR HE GOES CALLIN BLACK PEOPLE NIGGERS. " One of Megan's commenters was equally vile in his sentiments, if more literate: "First, the kid who was beaten was taunting the students. If you taunt someone and you get your ass kicked - it's your own fault."
These constant attempts to claim that Barker wasn't really hurt all that badly, or that he deserved it, or that a tennis shoe isn't a deadly weapon -- as if his attackers took off their shoes and slapped him with them, rather than stomping on him on the ground -- really rub me the wrong way. And it is 100% clear that if the races were reversed in this case -- if a group of white football players stomped on a black kid -- the folks who are trying to minimize the victim's injuries would be howling for blood.
Eddie Thompson, a local minister, has penned a very informative essay about the controversy, which I commend to my readers in full. Interestingly, Thompson admits that Jena has problems with racism and bigotry, and he seems to think that the Jena 6 were overcharged, which is probably reasonable. But he also provides a firsthand perspective not always reflected in media and blogger accounts.
Granted, some of his points are a bit, uh, trivial. For example, he says that there were two nooses, not three, in the infamous tree. Well, OK -- the point is that there were nooses. The exact number isn't critical.
But other factual claims are certainly interesting, if in fact they are true. For example, as I noted in my synopsis of the background facts, it has been widely reported that the students who put up the nooses were given a short in-school suspension. Thompson claims this isn't true, or at least it's not complete:
The actions of the three white students who hung the nooses demonstrate prejudice and bigotry. However, they were not just given “two days suspension” as reported by national news agencies. After first being expelled, then upon appeal, being allowed to re-enter the school system, they were sent to an alternative school, off-campus, for an extended period of time. They underwent investigations by Federal and Sate authorities. They were given psychological evaluations. Even when they were eventually allowed back on campus they were not allowed to be a part of the general population for weeks.
If true, this suggests that the original noose-hangers were not given just given a slap-on-the-wrist. And he adds some disturbing details about the fight itself and its aftermath:
There was no “fight” on December 4, 2006 at Jena High School, as the national media continues to characterize the event in question. Six students attacked a single student who was immediately knocked unconscious. According to sworn testimony, they stomped him, as he lay “lifeless” upon the ground.
Justin Barker, the white student attacked, was not the first white student targeted by these black students. Others had been informed they were going to be beaten, but stayed away from school and out of sight until they felt safe.
CNN reported that there were “obviously no witnesses to the fight.” In fact, over thirty eyewitnesses, students and teachers, were questioned immediately following the attack, all of who implicated one or more of the black students arrested in the case. In fact, some of the accused black students did not stop stomping Barker until they were pulled away from him by some of the teachers, according to testimony given in the trial of Mychal Bell.
The media continues to make the point that Justin Barker “attended a party” later that evening, insinuating that his injuries were not very severe. The Barkers, by no means a wealthy family, face medical bills already over $12,000 from the emergency room visit. Imagine what an overnight visit would have cost. Justin Barker was advised to remain hospitalized but decided he would not let the event keep him from participating in the once-in-a-lifetime, traditional Ring Ceremony at First Baptist Church in Jena, where class rings are presented to the upcoming senior class.
[Formatting altered somewhat because I'm too much of a klutz to duplicate his exact format on Blogger.] All of this, I think, points to the brutality of the attack, and the unfairness of using the fact that Barker attended a ceremony that night against him. Particularly disturbing is the allegation that the attack wasn't some spontaneous outburst brought on by Barker's taunting, but was instead premeditated.
And he supports what those of us night blinkered by our ideology have already figured out. These kids are not a bunch of angels, but are instead a bunch of juvenile delinquents who have been coddled because they're football players:
The “Jena Six” have repeatedly been held up as heroes by much of the race-based community and called “innocent students” by the national media. Some of these students have reputations in Jena for intimidating and sometimes beating other students. They have vandalized and destroyed both school property and community property. Some of the Jena Six have been involved in crimes not only in LaSalle Parish but also in surrounding parishes. For the most part, coaches and other adults have prevented them from being held accountable for the reign of terror they have presided over in Jena. Despite intervention by adults wanting to give them chances due their athletic potential, most of the Jena Six have extensive juvenile records. Yet their parents keep insisting that their children have never been in trouble before. These boys did not receive prejudicial treatment but received preferential treatment until things got out of hand.
This article says it all. Mychal Bell was on probation until his 18th birthday for a battery which occurred on Christmas Day, 2005. In early September of 2006 -- just a few months before the Jena 6 attack -- Bell was "adjudicated" for battery and criminal damage to property. A few days later, he rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns.