Members of James Craig Anderson’s family have asked both the State of Mississippi and federal prosecutors to remove the death penalty from consideration as regards the seven white teenagers charged with the brutal beating and hit-and-run death of Mr. Anderson on June 26. The Anderson family is pursuing a wrongful death claim in connection with the case.
CNN.com reported that Anderson’s sister wrote the following letter to officials:
“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. 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.”
The letter was signed by Barbara Anderson Young, who speaks for Anderson’s estate in legal matters.
The death penalty is currently only in discussion for Deryl Dedmon, a 19-year-old resident of Brandon. The only other teen facing criminal charges at this moment is John Aaron Rice. Dedmon is charged with capital murder, which Rice was originally charged with as well. A judge later lowered Rice’s charge to assault because it was apparent that Rice was not driving the car that struck and killed Anderson.
According to reporting and surveillance cameras, the seven teens ambushed Anderson in the early hours of the morning, beating and kicking him severely before leaving the scene. As Anderson attempted to walk away from the scene while injured, Dedmon and Rice followed him, drove partly up onto the curb of the motel and struck Anderson, running him over.
Dedmon remains in jail, his bond request having been denied twice now. Rice and the others remain free, and none of the other five face criminal charges, though the wrongful death suit names all seven teens.