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 in a hate crime in Jackson, Mississippi on June 26, 2011, by 18-year old Deryl Dedmon, who drove his pick-up truck over the older man. According to police, before being killed, Anderson was robbed and repeatedly beaten by a group of white teenagers, including Dedmon and his friends. The event was recorded on a security camera.
The FBI conducted a high-profile civil rights investigation of Anderson's murder; according to authorities, his death was intentional and racially motivated. Anderson's family asked that the perpetrators be spared the death penalty. Dedmon was convicted and sentenced to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment for the murder.
In 2012, Dedmon pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and conspiracy charges, as did John Rice, Dylan Butler, Jonathan Gaskamp and William Montgomery. On Feb 10, 2015, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves sentenced Deryl Dedmon to 50 years in prison; John Rice to 18 ½ years; and Dylan Butler to seven years for their roles in the hate crime. Their federal sentences will run concurrently to the state ones and they are not eligible for parole.
A group of young white men and women were drinking and partying in the small town of Puckett, 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, saying to his friends, "Let's go fuck with some niggers." The group climbed into Dedmon's green 1998 Ford F-250 truck 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.
According to prosecutors, James Craig Anderson was near his truck in the parking lot at the Metro Inn in Jackson at 5 am on June 26. The two vehicles with the young whites pulled off the freeway and into the motel parking lot. They claimed they believed that Anderson was trying to steal a vehicle because they saw him trying to break into one. The vehicle was Anderson's own; 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 but 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.
Later Dedmon boasted about beating and running Anderson over, saying, "I ran that nigger over," to the accomplices in the Jeep. Law enforcement officials said that Dedmon repeated that statement with the racial slur in subsequent conversations.
Investigation and charges
Dedmon was arrested by the Hinds County Sheriff 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." John Aaron Rice, another teenager who assaulted Anderson before he was killed, was charged with simple assault. Rice was released on $5,000 bail. Prosecutors pursued 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 wanted to "determine whether federal civil rights crimes occurred". Civil rights violations can include hate crimes.
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 the state's hate crime law provides for more severe sentences. Attorneys for both Dedmon and Rice initially denied that the crime was racially motivated. Rice's attorney said 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, but on March 21, 2012, he entered a guilty plea to murder and a hate crime charge. He was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences in prison. During his sentencing, Dedmon apologized to Anderson's family.
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.
With the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the family of James Anderson filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against seven of the teens who were involved in the incident. The suit gained attention in the LGBT community because Mississippi law doesn't recognize Anderson's partner of 17 years, who therefore cannot participate in the 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 be spared from 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"[dead link], CNN, August 5, 2011, news video includes graphic footage of the murder from the motel's security camera
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- Gates, Jimmie E. (September 30, 2011). "Dedmon pleads not guilty: Gag order imposed in slaying". The Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS). Retrieved October 7, 2011.
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- 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.[dead link]