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Judge taken off remaining 'Jena 6' cases

  • Story Highlights
  • 9th Judicial District Judge Thomas Yeager recuses Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr.
  • Appearance of impropriety exists, Yeager finds
  • Six black Jena High School students are accused of beating a white student
  • Thousands marched through Jena last year to protest handling of case
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NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- A Louisiana appeals court has removed a Lasalle Parish judge from the remaining "Jena Six" cases, court officials told CNN Friday.

Protesters gather at Jena High School during a civil rights march on September 20, 2007, in Jena, Louisiana.

Protesters gather at Jena High School during a civil rights march on September 20, 2007, in Jena, Louisiana.

Attorneys for four of the defendants had asked 9th Judicial District Judge Thomas Yeager to recuse Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr.

They said Mauffrey "had made numerous statements on numerous occasions" indicating he had already decided on a defendant's guilt and punishment.

"Indeed, Judge Mauffrey has expressed his belief generally that Jesse Ray [Beard] and his African-American friends are guilty, not only of the misconduct alleged in this matter, but of several other acts of misconduct as well," according to court documents filed in the case.

A court official said Friday Yeager had found that the appearance of impropriety existed and recused Mauffrey.

Beard is one of six black Jena High School students accused of beating a white student during a school fight on December 4, 2006.

The case drew national headlines when the teens initially were charged with second-degree attempted murder after they allegedly knocked out Justin Barker while stomping and kicking him.

After the charges triggered protests, they were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery. One of the teens, Mychal Bell, reached a plea agreement on a battery charge in juvenile court.

Dale Hickman, an attorney who represents another youth, Bryant Purvis, told CNN Mauffrey's removal was good news for his case. The judge tended to view the group as "six thugs" and not individuals, he said.

Hickman added he would be concerned about the outcome of a trial held before Mauffrey if his client waived his right to a jury.

CNN's Sean Callebs contributed to this report.

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