The family of James Craig Anderson has asked the state of Mississippi and federal officials to remove the death penalty from the table in regards to the seven white teenagers who allegedly murdered Anderson in the early morning of June 26.
In a letter written by Anderson’s sister, as reported by CNN.com, states:
“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, Anderson’s sister who is in charge of, and speaks for, the estate of Anderson.
The letter states that the family is opposed to the death penalty partly for religious convictions of faith.
“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 states. But the letter also goes on to explain that there is a historical reason for the family’s opposition 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.”
Deryl Dedmon, 19, of Brandon Mississippi, is one of seven white teenagers implicated in the murder case. He pled not guilty at his arraignment on Friday and is being charged with capital murder and a hate crime in the death of Anderson.
Although Dedmon may be facing the death penalty, according to CNN a second teen, John Aaron Rice, 18, was originally charged with murder as well, but a judge reduced the charges to simple assault because it was not believed that Rice was driving the vehicle used to kill Anderson.
CNN reports the teens allegedly beat Anderson repeatedly, yelling racial slurs. And after the beating, Dedmon drove his Ford F-250 truck over Anderson, leaving him to die of his wounds, according to what some of the teens cooperating with police have told authorities. There was also a security tape from the parking lot where the incident took place.
The Anderson family has filed a wrongful death suit against all seven of the teens who were present at the beating of Anderson which immediately preceded the drive-over of the truck.
In addition to Dedmon and Rice, the five other teens who took part in the incident that evening, according to the suit, are: Sarah Graves, of Crystal Springs; Shelbie Richards, of Pearl; and William Kirk Montgomery, John Blaylock and Dylan Butler, all of Brandon. None of the five has been arrested or charged.
Dedmon is currently the only suspect in jail; his bond was denied again on Friday.