Activists Laramie Griffin, founder of Evolve Louisiana; Angela Eaglin, vice president of The Village 337, Student Minister Abdul Rashid Muhammad, in brown suit, and Brother Rashad Ali Muhammad of Mosque No. 65, attend a news conference ahead of April 16 court hearing in New Iberia, Louisiana Photo: Charlene Muhammad

NEW IBERIA, La.—Again an 11-year-old Black girl’s family, friends and supporters expected her release from the Lafayette Juvenile Detention Center following a highly anticipated court hearing held April 16, but to their dismay, she remains captive on charges they insist are questionable.

On March 14, first-degree murder and accessory to murder charges against the child in the death of 36-year-old Kameran Bedsole were reduced to obstruction of justice charges, and she pleaded guilty in open court that day.

She has agreed to testify against her 15-year-old brother, who was also charged with first-degree murder and is incarcerated in the Jackson Parish Juvenile Detention Center. Mr. Bedsole’s body was found on November 14, 2023. 

In a matter of just three minutes, Judge Roger Hamilton, Jr. had opened and adjourned the April 16 court proceedings. The hold-up was the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ).

Student Minister Willie Muhammad Photo: Facebook

One of its two agents present informed the court that their risk and needs assessment (Pre-Disposition Investigation and Report) wasn’t ready and that they were currently working on a foster care home for the child.

“Awwww!” “What?!” “This is an outrage!” “You’ve got to be kidding me,” are just a few outbursts that permeated the courtroom after Judge Hamilton continued the matter to May 8. 

“If this was a White child, they would have let her come home,” stated one activist, who stood up and walked toward the courtroom exit.

Her hair in two curly afro puffs and dressed in an oversized, dark green detention uniform with a white t-shirt underneath, the girl joined her father and attorney at the defense table. 

Also in the courtroom, about 30 minutes before the hearing began, wearing an orange jumpsuit, her hair in cornrows with a tidy bang, sat her 40-year-old mother, Sabrina Washington. She was arrested on Dec. 5 and is being held in Iberia Parish Jail on $400,000 bond for two counts of accessory after the fact.

The little girl was unnoticed at first as she walked to her seat because her tiny frame was obscured by towering deputies.

From the outset, she appeared very interested in the environment, and continuously looked back into the public seating area, mostly over her right shoulder.

Activists Laramie Griffin of Evolve Louisiana, Elaine Provost and Omari Ho-shang of All Streets All People (ASAP), and Student Minister Abdul Rashid Muhammad.

More than 40 supporters from the community had packed the court. A couple of TV news station reporters were on hand. A small Nation of Islam delegation was present, including Student Minister Abdul Rashid Muhammad and his son, Rashad Ali Muhammad, of Mosque No. 65 in Baton Rouge.

“Black people represent one-third of the population in the state of Louisiana, but the majority of those who are incarcerated in the largest prison in America are predominantly Black people,” started Student Minister Abdul Rashid Muhammad.

“That’s what this is about, locking up as many of us as they can, starting from the babies up to the oldest adults. … It seems they want to tear down our young sister’s spirit and break the spirit of her backers,” he stated.

“It is our time to rise as a people and get behind the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad under the leadership of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. That’s the only truth that’s going to set us free and keep us out of this prison industrial complex,” he added.

Almost a dozen plain-clothes deputies were scattered throughout the public seating area and the hallway. Several of Mr. Bedsole’s family members and a court liaison sat on two front rows, blocked by a blue velvet rope. Immediately after adjournment, they were escorted out of the courtroom. 

Activist Devon Normand, wearing suit, of The Village 337 flanked by family and supporters of 11-year-old girl during April 16 post-hearing conference. Photos: Charlene Muhammad

The girl’s father and their attorney, Ron Haley, sat with her and spoke briefly.

Some advocates and loved ones began shouting positive messages to the child as she was being escorted toward the rear exit.  “… Keep your head up!”  “It’s not happening today, but you’re coming home!”  “Don’t let these people break you! You good!”  She looked at them and nodded her head up and down. Some waved to her. She waved back. 

Some family members, who live two hours away, hurriedly entered the courtroom, in just enough time to get a glimpse of her before she exited altogether. Her grandmother, Sandra Washington, appeared very saddened, distressed and upset.

Her grandmother’s sister, Terri, covered her mouth, wept profusely, and waved to the child. They called out her name and continued to wave and look around at others in the court, asking, “What happened?” “Ya’ll not releasing her?” one of her sisters shouted.

More people got an understanding of what had just occurred, which ignited an in-courtroom protest. “Who’s house?” “Our house!” people chanted. “Shut it down! Shut it down! Shut it down!” they chanted out, repeatedly, along with, “No Justice! No Peace!”

Family members, activists, and reporters observe dialogue between Attorney Ron Haley and 11-year-old’s sister outside the courthouse. Photo: Mario X

As the demonstration took place, the child sat up, looked out, slightly leaned over, and smiled.

“You all can take it outside,” stated a deputy.

They certainly did! 

“Free her,” men, women and children shouted on the courthouse steps. Their signs read: “Let her go!”; “Let our little girl go”; “No kids in jail”; and “140 Days is Too Long.” 

Continuing the pressure

“It seems to me that something was set up prior to us coming here today. And it seems to me that they were all in cahoots because when we sat down, everything happened so quickly,” stated Devon Norman with The Village 337, a collective of young leaders based in Lafayette, La.

“They said they were missing the attorney (Mr. Haley, who arrived approximately 10 minutes late). Then, the attorney got here. They sit down, and everything is over,” stated Mr. Norman.  “That means that everybody was on the same (page),” he said.

From left, Brother Brad X, Student Minister Abdul Rashid Muhammad, and Brother Rashad Ali Muhammad of Mosque No. 65 in Baton Rouge show support for fam-ily and community in New Iberia at pre-hearing news conference on April 16.

“We heard the last time that when we’d come to court today, the child would get a sentence and we would be leaving here with the child. Yet, we are leaving here the same way we came:  empty-handed,” stated Mr. Norman.   

“… The child going back to the detention center. What is going down in Louisiana?” Mr. Norman questioned. “And then we get here as if we’re not here for a baby, and they got us guarded by police while the victim’s family is protected as if somebody’s come here to do something to them,” continued Mr. Norman.

Next steps must include flooding the Office of Juvenile Justice with letters, phone calls and emails, and for citizens to show up when they could, he said.

“My contention, today, is the fact that we came here expecting a system to do its job. And once again, it failed us! … When we left the court, we let it be known, we’re not worried about decorum and we’re not worried about dignity, because if there will be no justice, we won’t get no peace,” said Mr. Norman.

“It’s about taking the right shot, not the quick shot. … This is not something that could get rushed. This is about putting the best position possible, going forward,” Atty. Haley told The Final Call.

“I can’t legally give any statements,” he emphasized after one of the 11-year-old’s sisters posed to him a litany of questions and concerns of her own.“She has a grandmother. She’s got an auntie. 

She’s got sisters that’s doing well in life. One of her sisters is a police officer, to be exact. She has places that she can go, where she’ll be healthy at, happy. Her happiness is the best thing. Her mental state is the best thing,” the girl’s sister told Atty. Haley.

“I have understanding. I understand that OJJ’s late. But this girl’s been in jail for 140 days. She’s never been in jail before, never been in trouble, has no charges before this; never have,” she added.

His role and goal are to represent the girl and get her out of the situation, but due to the gag order imposed by the judge, he can only regurgitate what happened in court, the attorney explained.

Elaine Provost and Omari Ho-Shang are co-founders of All Streets All People (ASAP), an organization that encourages everyday people to harness their power to push back against oppressive systems and to create change. They traveled 3 1/2 hours to be in court on April 16.  

“What we’ve seen today is that there are multiple agencies that are working together to make sure that this young lady stays incarcerated and so it’s very important that we continue to pressure, not just on May 8, to where they continued the case to, but in between today and May 8,” said Ms. Provost.

The Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy has had 140 days to complete an investigative report, which must be addressed, she said. In addition, ASAP aims to highlight those complicit in the girl’s months-long incarceration, she added.  

“The justice system is strictly about saving another race of people and incarcerating and putting in bondage our people,” said Ms. Provost. “Continue to press on. I know that the family seems to be very upset;

I would be, too, because this system here, we all have had a family member in it and we know that they do continuance after continuance, and to me, they were trying to insult us all,” she added.

More questions than answers

There are still many lingering questions about the incident, and court records obtained by The Final Call, in particular, a detective’s Affidavit for Arrest Warrant of the children’s mother, has only led to more questions.

“What I have not heard discussed in the media and even in the detective’s report is something of great importance, which is the motive. The why?

The revelation of the motive could really change the view that people have regarding this case. Thus far it is not known by the public,” stated Student Minister Willie Muhammad of Mosque No. 46 in New Orleans. 

“There is a gag order on the participating attorneys. The trial will help to bring more facts to the view of the public and answer some of the lingering questions that exist.

From our visit there I can say that there are community activists who are paying great attention to this case and doing their best to prevent this young girl from being railroaded,” he continued.

The gag order on the case is broad, and applies even to “supporters,” according to what Judge Hamilton read, as he began the short hearing on April 16.

“In an ideal world free from police corruption and the unfair arrests of Black and Brown people, the words of a law enforcement officer would be accepted as the truth and not questioned. Well, we know we do not live in such a utopian society and even the words of a law enforcement officer must be examined to determine if they are factual,” stated Student Minister Willie Muhammad.

Something in the warrant report raised questions for Student Minister Willie Muhammad. For example, he said, “The deceased was found by his girlfriend on November 13 shortly after 1:00 p.m. However, the law enforcement officer said he participated in a call with the mother of the 15-year-old and her son (the accused) on November 12 at midnight.

If the deceased was found dead on November 13 around 1:00 p.m., then how could the call with the mother, son and the detective take place? It could be a simple mishap, but this is one example of why even police reports must be examined, as well,” stated Student Minister Willie Muhammad.

“We are asked to travel to New Iberia by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to hear what was being said on the ground by those either directly involved in the case and/or who were advocating on the behalf of the family.

The Minister, with all that he deals with personally and within his mission, was concerned about this young sister whom he has never met, who resides in a small city in Louisiana. He wanted to get more information about this situation,” he stated.

The delay is unfortunate, Student Minister Willie Muhammad continued, explaining that everyone must do their job. From his experience working with those in the field of juvenile justice, they are often overwhelmed and underpaid. Thus, preparations suffer and youth like the 11 year old are impacted, he said.

Prosecutors have indicated they would seek seven years in jail, but some advocates said they pray she is released, and receives probation, with no jail time and credit for time served.

“Any family who has lost a loved one naturally wants justice and deserves such. True justice, so teaches the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, must be based upon truth.

But if the accused are railroaded in the process, that is not true justice. Even those accused and arrested have rights. As of now, we cannot say we know what the full truth is,” stated Student Minister Willie Muhammad. The Final Call will continue to report on this story.