Court tosses out La. teen's conviction in beating of white schoolmate - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Court tosses out La. teen's conviction in beating of white schoolmate

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A state appeals court on Friday threw out the only remaining conviction against one of the black teenagers accused in the beating of a white schoolmate in the racially tense north Louisiana town of Jena.

Mychal Bell, 17, should not have been tried as an adult, the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said in tossing his conviction on aggravated battery, for which he was to have been sentenced Thursday.

His conspiracy conviction in the December beating of student Justin Barker was already thrown out by another court.

Bell, who was 16 at the time of the beating, and four others were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder.

Those charges brought widespread criticism that blacks were being treated more harshly than whites following racial altercations involving Jena High.

Civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, had been planning a rally in support of the teens for the day Bell was to have been sentenced.

Teenagers can be tried as adults in Louisiana for some violent crimes, including attempted murder, but aggravated battery is not one of those crimes, the court said.

Defense lawyers had argued that the aggravated battery case should not have been tried in adult court once the attempted murder charge was reduced. The case "remains exclusively in juvenile court," the Third Circuit ruled.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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