Reed Walters, the prosecutor in the “Jena Six” cases announced that he will not challenge a Louisiana sate appeals court’s ruling that Mychal Bell, 17, could not be tried as an adult and that his second-degree battery conviction be set aside. Bell, who remains behind bars, is one of the six Jena, LA teens arrested after an attack on a white student in December.
Five of the teens initially faced attempted second-degree murder charges, but charges for four have been reduced. One teen has not been arraigned, and the case of the sixth teen, handled as a juvenile, is sealed.
Critics have accused local officials of prosecuting blacks more harshly than whites, reports the Associated Press. White students who allegedly hung nooses from a tree on the high school campus received only a few days suspension, despite accusations of a racially motivated hate crime. Their actions sparked fights between white and black students, including the attack that led to the Jena Six convictions.
The controversy has garnered national attention, drawing more than 20,000 protesters to the LA town last week. “This is the most blatant example of disparity in the justice system that we’ve seen,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. “You can’t have two standards of justice.”