NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- A state judge has agreed to open the trial of a Black teenager accused of beating a White school mate in a case that has drawn nationwide attention and fueled civil rights protests in Louisiana.
District Judge J.P. Mauffray agreed Thursday to open the trial of Mychal Bell, 17, but noted in a court filing that he was not required to open pretrial hearings. Typically, juvenile trials are closed to the public.
Bell, one of the Black teenagers known as the Jena Six, is set for trial Dec. 6 on charges of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy for his alleged role in an attack last December on Justin Barker, a White student at Jena High School.
The Associated Press and 24 other U.S. news organizations filed a lawsuit seeking full access to Bell's case. In his court filing, Mauffray also asked District Judge Thomas Yeager to dismiss the news organizations' lawsuit. Yeager is scheduled to be heard Wednesday.
An attorney for the news organizations said all of the hearings should be open.
"It's fine as far as it goes," Dan Zimmerman, an attorney representing the coalition of media that is suing, said on Friday. "But the press and public have already been excluded from hearings. They should not be left out of the others that will come up between now and the trial."
The charges against Bell and five others sparked a huge civil-rights demonstration in Jena, Louisiana, in September. Critics accused Lasalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters of treating Blacks more harshly than Whites, because his office did not file charges against three White teens accused of hanging nooses in a tree at the high school shortly before the attack on Barker.
In Washington on Friday, protesters marched through the streets around the Justice Department to demand federal intervention in the case and enforcement of hate crime laws against those who hang nooses in public.