In the summer, “CNN: Special Investigation Unit” began to document the story of Jena, La. Long before 20,000 marchers converged on this small town, SIU was there meeting with the families and officials caught up in the chain of racially charged events and court cases stemming from the hanging of nooses in the high school courtyard.
Correspondent Kyra Phillips was on the ground in Jena for weeks, taking the time to sit and talk with residents in coffee shops, at Friday night football and in their homes. Phillips’ desire to find the real Jena and understand what might have motivated three high school boys to hang nooses allowed her to gain the respect of many people in the town who had long since stopped talking to the media.
The documentary, according to the SIU team, was intended from the outset to examine not only the events that lead to the hanging of a noose from a tree at Jena High School, but the community growth among blacks and whites.
Kyra Phillips (VO): For the families of those six black teenagers charged with attempted murder, life has been a costly, emotional roller coaster.
Resident: That’s a horrible feeling to wake up every morning and your son’s future is in the hands of a DA. That’s a horrible feeding.
Phillips (VO): For Tina Jones … it meant mortgaging her small house to raise the $70,000 bail for her son, Bryant. Other families had to mortgage their homes as well. The severity of the charges was surprising even to some in Jena’s white community.
Judges said “Excellent Job: continuity, topic, follow-up, quality of camera work, post production. The story was told and developed in a way that kept me glued to my chair. Topic: A reality that we face here in the United States … in our back yard. Great job.”