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Jena 6 prosecutor thanks 'Lord Jesus Christ' for preventing protest disaster
David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Published: Friday September 28, 2007

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Louisiana district attorney Reed Walters, whose prosecution of six black teens for the beating of a white student has attracted a throng of civil rights leaders and activists to the tiny town of Jena, says Jesus Christ is to thank for keeping protests peaceful.

"I firmly believe that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened," Walters said of a protest in support of the teens which drew thousands last week.

"The Lord Jesus Christ put his influence on those people, and they responded accordingly," he continued.

Walters' remarks came during a press conference yesterday during which he announced he would not challenge an appellate court ruling that 17-year old Mychal Bell, one of teens accused in the attack, should be tried as a juvenile.

Bell had originally been convicted of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy charges, but the verdict was thrown out by a Louisiana appeals court earlier this month.

Earlier in the news conference, the prosecutor had thanked local Christians for their support.

"The only way -- and let me stress that -- the only way that I believe that me or this community has been able to endure the trauma that has been thrust upon us is through the prayers of the Christian people who have sent them up in this community," he said.

Rev. Donald Sibley, however, a minister from a local Jena church, took exception to Watlers' comments that Jesus was solely responsible for maintaining order.

"I think everyone handled themselves very professionally," he called out from the assembled crowed. "I think it's a shame for you to say only Jesus Christ caused what happened there last Thursday. I think it was behavior of 30,000 people."

"The only point I was trying to make is that both sides pray," Sibley told CNN following the news conference.

"I can't diminish Christ at all," he continued, "but for him to use it in the sense that because his Christ, his Jesus, because he prayed, because of his police, that everything was peaceful and was decent and in order -- that's just not the truth."

"Obviously, we're serving two different Gods here," he added. "My Bible says that we should be loving."

Speaking about his decision to let Bell be tried as a juvenile, Walters said the move comes after "reviewing the facts and researching the law in this area, as well as consulting with some of the best legal minds that I know of in this state."

"While I believe that a review would have merit in this very unsettled area of the law," he continued, "I also believe that it is in the best interest of the victim and his family not to delay this matter any further."

The district attorney insisted that the protests in Jena had no influence on the outcome of the case.

"I'm sure you also want to know what impact the demonstrations that occurred in Jena last week, and other statements made by prominent people, have played a part in my decision," he said. "The answer is none."

"To do my job well," he added, "a prosecutor must develop a thick hide against outside influences. He must make his decisions based upon his own best judgment."

Following Watlers' announcement, Bell was released on $45,000 bail yesterday and is scheduled for his first appearance in juvenile court on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

The following video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast on September 27.