Prosecutors said they are “unlikely” to pursue the death penalty for Deryl Dedmon, the white Mississippi teen found guilty of running over James Anderson, because the victim’s family opposes the death penalty for religious reasons.
On Wednesday, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith told ABCNews.com he’d make a formal announcement in the coming days after “strongly considering” the family’s wishes to spare Dedmon, 19, who was indicted with capital murder this week by a special grand jury.
“Nearly all of the time we would like for the families to be pleased with the outcome of their loved ones’ cases,” he said. “We try to give that family peace of mind.”
Anderson, who was black, was beaten by a group of seven white teens in June and then run over by a truck that Dedmon was driving. According to a civil suit filed by the Anderson family the teens drove to Jackson, Miss., “to go fuck with some niggers.” Prosecutors say the victim was attacked in a hotel parking lot next to a highway exit because he was the first black person they saw.
“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder,” read a letter sent to Hinds County district attorney. The letter, signed by Barbara Anderson Young, James Craig Anderson’s sister, 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.”
“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 continues. “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.
Hinds County District Attorneys are working jointly with the Department of Justice to decide charges agaisnt the remaining suspects and whether this case is a federal hate crime. (An infographic released by Colorlines.com today illustrates a detailed look at how race shapes who ends up on death row and with life sentences in the U.S.)
Dedmon’s trial will most likely be held next year.