The family of James C. Anderson, the African-American man who died after allegedly being beaten by a group of white teens and run over by a truck, is asking state and federal officials not to seek the death penalty in the case. The family said the man accused of murdering Anderson should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, but added “the punishment for those with hate in their hearts should be one tempered with love.”
“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder,” the letter states; the letter is signed by Barbara Anderson Young, James Craig Anderson’s sister who is in charge of, and speaks for, his estate, CNN is reporting.
In her letter, Young quoted Coretta Scott King in explaining her opposition to capital punishment: “An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life.”
“Our opposition to the death penalty is deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well,” the letter continues.
“Our Savior Jesus Christ rejected the old way of an eye for an eye and taught us instead to turn the other cheek. He died that we might have everlasting life and, in doing so, asked that the lives of the two common criminals nailed to the crosses beside him be spared. We can do no less.”
But the family goes on to explain that there is another reason for their opposition, one that is tied to Mississippi’s racial past.
“We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites,” the letter states. “Executing James’ killers will not help to balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment.”
“Those responsible for James’ death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man. They also caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another,” the letter reads.
Anderson was violently attacked and then run over by a group of white teens who left a nearby town with what a civil suit says was the intention to “go fuck with some niggers.” Deryl Dedmon 19, of Brandon, Mississippi is accused of intentionally running over Anderson with his green Ford-250 and is now facing capital murder charges because of evidence that he assaulted and robbed Anderson before allegedly killing the man.
U.S. Department of Justice investigators are now in Jackson, investigating the death as a possible federal hate crime and assisting local prosecutors, according to CNN. The family has also filed their own civil suit against Dedmon and six other white teens who they say were involved in the alleged hate crime.
“It’s most likely that we will honor the family’s wishes, but we will see whether or not things will change over the course of this proceeding,” District Attorney Robert Smith told local news WJTV,
In the state of Mississippi, a capital murder conviction carries the death penalty or life without parole. Those convicted of murder can petition for parole starting at age 65.
Video from a local news report below: