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12.04.2007

JENA 6

JENA, La. - The family of the victim in the "Jena Six" case has sued the adults accused of beating him, the families of the juveniles allegedly involved and the board of the school where the attack occurred.
Justin Barker and his parents, David and Kelli, also accuse a seventh, uncharged student of being part of the group that attacked Justin on Dec. 4, 2006, as he walked out of Jena High School's gym headed to another class.
The lawsuit was filed Nov. 29 in state district court. It alleges that the LaSalle Parish School Board is liable because school employees were not adequately supervising students and failed to maintain discipline.
The charges against the students accused of attacking Barker led to a civil-rights demonstration in Jena in September by activists who alleged local authorities were prosecuting blacks more harshly than whites.
Barker is white; those accused of attacking him are black. One of the defendants, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, pleaded guilty Monday to a second-degree battery in return for an 18-month sentence, with credit for 10 months he already has served.
Five of the six students charged, including Bell, originally faced attempted murder charges. Bell was convicted in adult court and could have received 15 years in prison, but the conviction was thrown out by an appellate court that said he should have been tried as a juvenile.
Felony charges against the other students are pending.
Barker spent several hours in the emergency room after the attack but was discharged and attended a school event the night after the attack.
Critics of LaSalle Parish prosecutors point to an incident three months before the attack on Barker in which three white teens were accused of hanging nooses from a tree at the high school. The three were suspended from school but never criminally charged; District Attorney Reed Walters has said there was no state crime to charge them with.
The suit names the attackers as the Jena Six students — Mychal Bell, Jesse Beard, Theo Shaw, Bryant Purvis, Carwin Jones and Robert Bailey Jr. — as well as a seventh student, Malcolm Shaw, who has not been charged.
"My son Bryan Purvis is the one that tried to break the fight up and they're making me spend too much money trying to defend him," said his father, Billy Purvis Sr.
Messages left for Bailey's and Jones' families were not immediately returned Tuesday, and no one answered phone calls made that afternoon to the high school and the school board. Others named in the lawsuit could not be immediately reached.

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