Jena 6 Teen Gets Chance to Turn It Around

"Jesse Ray Beard said he was constantly in trouble, even when he behaved. It took being accused of the racially charged attempted murder of a white classmate in the Deep South to turn his life around..."


Being accused of attemped murder has a funny way of turning someone's life around. In Jesse Ray Beard's case, one of the teens accused in the Jena 6 case, his turn was for the better thanks, in large part, to the lawyer who represented him, Howard Alan. From CNN:

Beard, 18, now interns at a New York law firm as he prepares for his senior year next month at Canterbury School, a Connecticut prep academy where Beard is highly regarded among peers and teachers.

"I didn't change the way I act. I didn't do nothing different. It was just that I was at Canterbury instead of Jena," he said. "It was like Jena was out to get me -- and not just me, but other people, too."

If not for the controversy surrounding the Jena Six and the palpable racial tension in the Louisiana town, Beard never would have met the attorney who changed the course of Beard's life by removing him from everything he knew.


Howard said his first impression of Beard -- that he had "tremendous character, tremendous resilience and tremendous potential" -- was so strong he invited the teen to live with his family in New England.

It's been a tidal shift, Beard said, moving from a Louisiana town of 3,000 to Bedford, New York, a well-to-do city of 18,000 situated an hour north of the Big Apple.

The biggest shock? "Where I'm from in Jena, I think the only time it snowed is when I was 6, and it was like 1 inch."


The Howards say Beard meshes seamlessly. Though he struggled with the curriculum at Canterbury -- a Catholic school in New Milford boasting a six-to-one student-teacher ratio -- he is seeing tutors and showing improvements.