In a remarkable letter, the family of James Craig Anderson—victim of an apparent racist hate crime and driven over by a truck to his death on June 26—has asked the state of Mississippi and federal officials to take the death penalty off the table in considering the case of the seven white teenagers who allegedly murdered Anderson.
The case drew national attention and a surveillance tape of the murder drew wide airing.
A letter written by Anderson’s sister, Barbara Anderson Young (who reportedly speaks for the family) as reported by CNN.com, states: “We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder…. 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 also explains there is a second reason: “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. 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.”
Deryl Dedmon, 19, of Brandon, Mississippi, one of seven white teenagers (and the only one presently in jail) pled not guilty at his arraignment on Friday. He is being charged with capital murder and a hate crime.
CNN reports the teens beat Anderson repeatedly, yelling racial slurs. Then Dedmon allegedly drove his Ford F-250 truck over Anderson, age 29, leaving him to die. There is a security tape (see below) from the parking lot where the incident took place. (For other such incidents, current trends and more see my new e-book on the death penalty, Dead Reckoning.)