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Mychal Bell of the Jena 6 talks with The Final Call
Mychal Bell of the Jena 6 talks with The Final Call
By Jesse Muhammad
Updated Oct 10, 2007, 10:35 pm
Mychal Bell of the 'Jena 6' released on $45,000 bail; conducts exclusive interview with The Final Call
The Jena Report: Mychal Bell's conviction overturned (FCN, 09-26-2007)
The Jena 6 fight for justice continues (FCN, 09-03-2007)
JENA, La. (FinalCall.com) - After serving over nine months behind bars, 17-year-old Mychal Bell of the "Jena Six" was set free Sept. 27 on $45,000 bail, just hours after District Attorney Reed Walters publicly confirmed that he would no longer seek an adult trial for him. Mychal still faces trial as a juvenile stemming from the December fight that took place at Jena High School.
"It feels real good to have Mychal home," stated Marcus Jones to The Final Call via telephone the moment his son was released. "Thank you to everyone who has supported us." Mychal was all smiles during the press conference outside the courthouse the day of his release.
"We still have mountains to climb, but at least this is closer to an even playing field," said the Reverend Al Sharpton during the press conference following Mychal's release. "He goes home because a lot of people left their home and stood up for him," Earlier that week, Rev. Sharpton accompanied Mr. Jones and Melissa Bell to Washington, D.C. to meet with House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) about their son's plight. Conyers held a hearing the day after Mychal's release during the CBC's annual legislative conference. In a statement, he said, "In 2007, there should not even be allegations of unequal justice based on race or any other factors. This case brings to light what could be a national trend, and the Judiciary Committee should explore that."
Also that week, Rev. Sharpton joined Mr. Jones and Ms. Bell on CNN's Larry King Live to discuss the case and their visit to Washington. Larry King announced that he had invited the victim Justin Barker and his family to be guest on the show as well, but said "they declined." However, they were guests on the two-part Jena discussion on the Dr. Phil Show, which stirred heated audience debates over racism.
"I told Mychal that we have just scored another touchdown! The game isn't over but we just scored another point on them," stated Attorney Lewis Scott to The Final Call in a phone conversation following Mychal's release. "I thank you for continuing to cover this story and all that you have done to help. We are now going to await the trial date for the juvenile charge." Atty. Scott conducted a seminar on injustice in America during the CBC conference as well.
The juvenile court proceedings are scheduled to begin on Oct. 2. Mychal faces juvenile court charges of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit the same crime. Previously facing 15 years in prison, he now could be imprisoned until the age of 21 if found guilty. Mychal's adult conviction was overturned on Sept. 14 and DA Walters stated that he would appeal the decision. On Sept. 27, he said he still believes there was legal merit to trying Mychal as an adult, but decided it was in the best interest of the Justin Barker and his family to leave it to the juvenile court.
"They [victim's family] are on board with what I decided," DA Walters at his news conference held the day of Mychal's release. He also added that the huge protest on Sept. 20 had nothing to do with his decision.
Mychal is among the six Black Jena High School students arrested in December after Justin Barker was reportedly beaten unconscious, but was later seen a school function that same night. The other five are Carwyn Jones, Robert Bailey Jr, Theo Shaw, Bryant Purvis and Jessie Beard. The initial charges of attempted murder have been dropped to aggravated second-degree battery for four of them and Purvis is the only one that has yet to be arraigned.
Mychal Bell talks with The Final Call
Less than 24 hours after being released from the confines of a jail cell, Mychal Bell sits on his mother's living room couch reading a college football magazine. Up to that point, he hadn't slept since being at home nor has he eaten any food. Wearing a red t-shirt, sweats, and slippers, he's surrounded by his grandmother, uncles, aunts, former football teammates, cousins, friends, and Louisiana state troopers on site to protect him and his family. That day he received a warm visit from Bro. Deric Muhammad and Sis. Sadiyah X of the Houston MMM Ministry of Justice.
As he flips through the pages of the football magazine, his eyes are fixed on the latest stats and Bro. Deric leans over and says, "You think you still got it?." Mychal replies quickly with confidence "I think I'm still in pretty good shape to play football." His tone resonates his passion for the game and a yearning to utilize the gift he was known for in this small town prior to becoming one of the "Jena Six."
His mother walks throughout the house wiping away tears because her son is out after serving his junior year behind bars. Mychal puts down the sports magazine and for the first time begins to talk about his feelings on being freed to The Final Call. "I feel so blessed right now to be home. The many letters I received kept my spirits up. I never imagined I would get this much love and support. It has been overwhelming." He pauses and glances at the TV then continues. "I know there are other Brothers who got caught up in the system like I did, but don't get the same support I am getting, so I am very appreciative and grateful. I am looking to do right. I want to finish school."
When asked by The Final Call if he saw the Sept. 20 rally on television, he replied "No sir. They put me in confinement so I couldn't watch it. But I later saw some clips of it." He described how prison guards on the inside increased their negative attitudes and actions towards him the more and more people on the outside cried out for justice.
"They [guards] kept asking me why all of these various organizations and leaders were coming to Jena to support me. I told them to go and ask them for themselves." The weekend after the rally he would spend three more days in confinement which he described as the prison guards' way of punishing him for the over 50,000 people who rallied on his behalf. "But they couldn't break my spirit."
"Your life will never be the same and they will be watching everything you do," stated Bro. Deric to Mychal, who shook his head in agreement. "They want to try and make Black America think that they stood up for someone that didn't deserve it. We will continue to fight until you have full and complete freedom."
One of the biggest concerns on Mychal's mind is the safety of his life and his family with the circulating threats that have been made. Over and over to The Final Call he said, "I want to move out of Jena. I don't feel safe here." That same day he was visited by local law enforcement that came to place a monitoring device on his ankle because his bail requires that he be placed on house arrest. Although he desires to have more freedom, he said to The Final Call, "I am going to be patient like Bro. Deric said because I know that I am in a better position today than I was yesterday. As long as I stay prayerful I will be in an even better position tomorrow. I am blessed for real."
"At a certain point, I started getting so many letters that the prison guards stopped delivering them to me," he says to The Final Call. "So when I was released they handed me all of my letters and it was thousands of them!" With a smile he runs to get his mother's car keys, opens the trunk, and says "Look at the love" as he points to the overflowing boxes of well-wishes from across the world.
"I even had colleges, who want to recruit me, to write me while I was in prison," he says as his peers read off a few of the cities. Bro. Deric then arranged for him to speak with hip-hop icons Bun-B and Paul Wall via telephone, who both gave him some encouraging words.
"Thank you all so much," says his mother to The Final Call, as she hugs the members of the MOJ. "I am happy to have my baby home."
"It feels good to be with my family. I thank everyone for their support," says Mychal. "To all of the young people out there: Be a leader. Obey your parents."
2007 FCN Publishing, FinalCall.com