AFTER A SCHOOLYARD brawl in 2006, six black students at a high school in Jena, Louisiana were charged with attempted murder. The victim, a white student, was treated and released within a few hours.
One of the black students was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit it by an all white jury in July. Next week, on September 20, his sentencing hearing will begin. He faces up to 22 years in prison.
The brawl occurred two months after three hangman's nooses were found hanging from a tree in the schoolyard.
The three white students accused of hanging the nooses were suspended for a few days. No white students were charged with crimes after the schoolyard brawl.
There is an appearance that the black students are being punished more harshly than the white students. When given more context from other recent, similar cases, the charges against the "Jena 6" seem extreme.
Can you be an objective journalist and cover this case? Can you overlook perceived injustices and simply report the facts that come out during the trials and hearings?
Or should you use your pulpit as a journalist to fight for causes like this? Shouldn't you stand up and scream for things to be better?
Can you put aside who you are (and what you believe in) and be neutral? Should you?
UPDATE FROM 9/15: Judges throws out conviction for one black student. Future still uncertain since he might be retried as a juvenile. The other Jena 6 have yet to be tried, and three still await attempted murder charges.
10 months ago