Murder of James Craig Anderson
|James Craig Anderson|
|Died||June 26, 2011
|Occupation||factory worker at Nissan plant|
|Known for||victim of hate crime|
James Craig Anderson was a 49-year-old African American who was murdered by being run over, in Jackson, Mississippi on June 26, 2011, by a pick-up truck driven by 18-year old Deryl Dedmon. The event was recorded on a security camera. According to police, before being killed, Anderson was robbed and repeatedly beaten by a group of white teenagers including Dedmon and his friends. Anderson's murder generated a high-profile civil rights investigation by the FBI; according to authorities, his death was intentional and racially motivated. Dedmon was convicted and sentenced to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment for the murder.
Before the murder, a group of young whites were drinking in largely white Rankin County, Mississippi. According to a lawyer representing one (or more) of the perpetrators, they decided to go buy more beer in a location where stores were open later at night. According to law enforcement officials, Deryl Dedmon, a white man from Brandon, Mississippi, led the group, urging his friends, "Let's go fuck with some niggers." The group climbed into Dedmon's green 1998 Ford F-250 and a white Jeep Cherokee and drove 16 miles (26 km) west on Interstate 20 to a predominantly black area on the western edge of Jackson.
Anderson was near his truck in the parking lot at the Metro Inn in Jackson, Mississippi, at 5 am on June 26, according to prosecutors. The two vehicles pulled off the freeway and into the motel parking lot. According to an attorney representing one of the group, they assumed that Anderson was trying to steal a vehicle because they saw him trying to break into a vehicle. The vehicle was Anderson's own; he was trying to break in because he had lost his keys. The group repeatedly beat Anderson and robbed him, the district attorney said, citing reports from witnesses. Video from a motel security camera does not show any beating occurring but instead shows the perpetrators entering and leaving the frame of the video. One witness reported that one of the perpetrators yelled “white power” when returning to his truck after the beating.
After leaving the scene, Dedmon boasted about beating and running Anderson over, while using racial slurs, saying "I ran that nigger over" to the accomplices in the other Jeep. Law enforcement officials indicated that Dedmon repeated that statement with the racial slur in subsequent conversations.
Investigation and charges
Dedmon was arrested on July 6 and was charged with capital murder. The incident was a racially motivated hate crime. Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said that the killers said racial slurs during the attack. "This was a crime of hate," he told CNN. "Dedmon murdered this man because he was black." Another teenager, John Aaron Rice, who assaulted Anderson before he was killed, has been charged with simple assault. Rice was released on $5,000 bail. Prosecutors are pursuing additional charges against Rice as well as Dedmon's other accomplices who were at the scene.
The FBI opened an investigation into the crime as a civil rights violation. FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said on August 17 that the bureau wants to "determine whether federal civil rights crimes occurred". Civil rights violations can include hate crimes according to Madden.
On September 20, a grand jury indicted Dedmon on charges of capital murder as well as a hate crime. Capital murder in Mississippi carries the sentences of death or life in prison without parole and Mississippi's hate crime law provides for enhanced sentences. Attorneys for both Dedmon and Rice initially denied that the crime was racially motivated. Rice's attorney claims the teens were on a "beer run" and that they were not looking for a black man to assault.
Dedmon entered a plea of not guilty at a preliminary hearing held on September 30. On March 21, 2012, Dedmon entered a guilty plea to murder and a hate crime charge and was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences in prison.
On March 22, 2012, Dedmon, John Rice, and Dylan Butler pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and conspiracy charges. On December 4, 2012, Jonathan Gaskamp and William Montgomery also pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and conspiracy charges. All five will be sentenced in federal court at a later date.
The case has sparked a "war of words" on the Internet.
The family of James Anderson has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center against seven of the teens that were involved in the incident. The suit has gained attention in the LGBT community because Mississippi law doesn't recognize Anderson's partner of 17 years and his partner is therefore unable to participate in the wrongful death suit.
Anderson's sister wrote a letter to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith on behalf of her family, requesting that those responsible for Anderson's death not face the death penalty, citing the family's Christian values. The letter stated "They also have caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another. ... 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 balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment."
- "Hate crime? Killing Caught on Video", CNN, August 5, 2011, news video includes graphic footage of the murder from the motel's security camera
- Severson, Kimberly (August 22, 2011). "Killing of Black Man Prompts Reflection on Race in Mississippi". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
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- "'I do not ask y'all to forget, but I do ask y'all to forgive,' says white teen as he is given life sentences for race-hate murder of black man he ran over in pick-up truck". Daily Mail (London).
- Mohr, Holbrook (August 14, 2011). "James Craig Anderson's Death Sparks Internet War Of Words Over Alleged Mississippi Hate Crime". The Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
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- Sperling, Nicole (August 15, 2011). "March Aims to draw attention to Slaying of Black Mississippi Man". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
- "Judge Knocks Down Charges In Jackson Homicide; Bond For John Aaron Rice Set At $5,000". WAPT.com. July 18, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
- Diebert, Michael (August 9, 2011). "What James Craig Anderson's Killing Means to America". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
- "Inmate Detail". Jackson, Mississippi: Hinds County Sheriff's Department. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
- "Life sentence in Mississippi hate-crime case". CNN. March 22, 2012.
- Martinez, Michael (September 20, 2011). "Mississippi teen charged with capital murder in alleged hate killing". CNN. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
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- "FBI to probe Mississippi hit-and-run killing". MSNBC. Reuters. August 19, 2011. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- Mohr, Holbrook (September 21, 2011). "Miss. teen indicted for capital murder, hate crime". Forbes. Associated Press. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- Gates, Jimmie E. (September 30, 2011). "Dedmon pleads not guilty: Gag order imposed in slaying". The Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS). Retrieved October 7, 2011.
- "Three Brandon men plead guilty to federal hate crime charge". WLOX. March 22, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- "More Hate Crime Guilty Pleas in Hit and Run". WJTV. December 4, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- Wagster Pettus, Emily (December 4, 2012). "1 more guilty of hate crime in Miss. rundown case". USA Today. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- Severson, Kim (September 6, 2011). "Family of Black Man Sues Whites in Killing". The New York Times. Retrieved September 8, 2011.
- McGonnigal, Jamie (September 9, 2011). "Husband, child of hate crime victim shut out by Mississippi laws". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved September 9, 2011.
- "Family of alleged Miss. hate-killing victim doesn't want death penalty". CBS. Associated Press. September 16, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2011.