Judge C. Victor Lander on the Jena Six

View From the Bench – Jena Louisiana Revisited

There has been a lot on the net and the blog world regarding the case of six African-American youth in Jena, Louisiana known as The Jena Six.  I've written about it here as well, but I thought it would be good to hear Dallas Municipal Judge C. Victor Lander's perspective on the subject.  Judge Lander was a huge part in the freedom fight for Tyrone Brown.

By C. Victor Lander

Additional information has been sought about the young brothers known as the Jena 6 and the situation in our neighboring state of Louisiana.  Inasmuch as one of the young men of the Jena 6 is scheduled to be sentenced in just a few days, inasmuch as the only way to try to save this young brother is for the public to get involved, and inasmuch as the public of Dallas is not only uninvolved, it is totally uninformed, I thought I would share with you a few more items of interest about this case.  I am NOT going to let you forget this.

First and foremost, much of my information on this case comes from the Rev. Alan Bean of the Friends of Justice (806/729-7889,  http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com,), an organization similar to Dallas’ Coalition for Justice, formed after the travesty of Tulia (you remember Tulia, I hope).  Rev. Bean is an Anglo brother of uncompromising dedication and faith, a man who saw wrong not far from his home in Tulia and has tried to right it. 

He reports that, although the Jena story has not yet been covered extensively on the national news, the international press has taken note of this injustice.  He has also noted that the injustice in large part is perpetrated by the very persons whose responsibility it is to ensure that justice in the township is done, specifically the LaSalle Parish Superintendent Roy Breihaupt and Parish District Attorney Reed Walters.

These are specifics.  When the nooses were hung from the “white” tree in the yard of Jena High School on August 31, 2006, the white Parish Superintendent called it a “childish prank”, and gave the white offenders three days in school suspension. When the black students protested under the tree on September 6, 2006, in reaction to Superintendent Breihaupt’s outrageous statement and punishment, the high school’s officials called an emergency school assembly in the school’s auditorium, where every police officer in town appeared in full uniform.  The white District Attorney then told the black students (by tradition sitting on one side of the room while the white students sat on the other), “I can be your best friend or I can be your worst enemy”. 

The protests must stop, District Attorney Walters said, waving his pen at the black side of the room, because “with a stroke of my pen I can make your lives disappear”.  On November 30, 2006, the school’s main academic wing was destroyed by fire, and a few days later, black student Robert Bailey was kicked, punched, and hit with a beer bottle at a Friday night dance (his medical bills were over $12,000.00).  NO CHARGES WERE BROUGHT AGAINT THE WHITE STUDENTS WHO BEAT HIM (the District Attorney, you remember, had not threatened to make the white students’ “lives disappear”). 

After Bailey was taunted by white students for having his “butt kicked” the Friday before, and after a white former student pulled a shotgun on some black young men, on December 4, 2006, white student Justin Barker was beaten (he was released from the hospital the same day).  Six black students were arrested, including victim Robert Bailey, and District Attorney Walters made good on his threat, at least with respect to one of the black students, Mychal Bell, a standout athlete who now stands convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced July 31, 2007.

This is the Jena story.  The time is now to do something about it.  Call the press, call Jesse Jackson, call the Congressional Black Caucus, call the Friends of Justice, but DO SOMETHING.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  Today Jena, tomorrow Dallas.  It’s now your call.

C. Victor Lander serves as Presiding Judge of City of Dallas Municipal Court Number 7, and has served in that position full time for over 10 years.  Judge Lander can be reached at CVLander@AOL.com. 

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