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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Judge Removed From 'Jena Six' Case

The judge overseeing the criminal cases for the remaining Jena Six defendants was removed against his will Friday for making questionable remarks about the six black teenagers charged. They're accused of a December 2006 attack on a white high-school classmate in the central Louisiana town of Jena that led to widespread protests.

Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr. had acknowledged calling the teens "troublemakers" and "a violent bunch" but insisted he could be impartial. Judge Thomas M. Yeager, who was asked by defense attorneys to review the case, found there was an appearance of impropriety and took Mauffray off the case.

"The right to a fair and impartial judge is of particular importance in the present cases," Yeager wrote.

Six black teens were arrested and initially charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with a Dec. 4, 2006, attack on fellow Jena High School student Justin Barker, who is white. The charges were later reduced.

Jesse Ray Beard, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw now face aggravated second-degree battery charges. Beard is charged as a juvenile.

Mychal Bell is the only member of the group to have been tried. He originally was charged as an adult with attempted murder. The charge was reduced before a jury convicted him last June of aggravated second-degree battery.

In September, an appeals court overturned the verdict and ordered Bell tried as a juvenile. He pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery. He now lives with a foster family in Monroe, La., and is attending school.

Bell's attorney, Louis Scott, said he would also ask to have Mauffray removed from Bell's case. Although Bell's plea will remain unchanged, Scott said he did not want Mauffray to oversee the teen's probation. [Mark Godsey]

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