- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., appearing with the Rev. Al Sharpton by his side, said he will convene hearings to investigate the handling of the Jena 6 case and prosecutions of blacks nationwide.

“We’re trying to put together an understanding of how we can present this to the American people,” said Mr. Conyers, Michigan Democrat, describing what he called a “miscarriage of justice” and the “circumstances of segregation that have been part of our legal system.”

During a Capitol Hill press conference, Mr. Conyers, other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the family of one of the six black teens from Jena, La., charged with beating a white student said the blacks were dealt with too severely.

“If you can’t understand Jena, you can’t understand us. We are in jail because of who we are, not what we are,” said Mr. Sharpton, who last week led a major protest in the town.

Martin Luther King III said the Jena 6 story could be used for good.

“There must be reconciliation to bring this community back together,” he said. “This is not about tearing apart.”

However, Mr. King also added, “We know that Jenas exist all over America.”

Mychal Bell, the only student tried so far, has had his conviction thrown out by a local trial judge and by the Louisiana Court of Appeals. He remains incarcerated while the state’s district attorney decides either to appeal the ruling or to try Mr. Bell as a juvenile.

“Nothing short of immediate release is even worth further discussion,” said Mr. Sharpton of New York.

CBC Chairman Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Michigan Democrat, demanded that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat, pardon Mr. Bell.

“An atrocity has been done … Governor Blanco, pardon this man,” she said.

Mrs. Blanco’s office says the governor has “reached out” to the state district attorney, the state attorney general and the state’s U.S. attorney to express her concern about the case.

In addition, Mrs. Blanco is scheduled to meet with Mr. Sharpton and Mr. King today to discuss the case and will meet with members of Congress to discuss her “lack of authority” on the pardon issue.

U.S. Attorney Donald Washington has previously said that there is no evidence of unfair prosecution in Mr. Bell’s case, given that Mr. Bell has faced prior assault charges.

Mr. Bell’s parents spoke briefly at the press conference, saying their son remains in good spirits.

“He appreciates everyone that’s coming out to support him,” said Mr. Bell’s mother, Melissa.

House Republicans privately said they were not invited to the meeting between Mr. Bell’s parents and black leaders.

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