Deryl Paul Dedmon, a 19-year-old white man from Mississippi, has been charged with capital murder and hate crime enhancement over the death of James Craig Anderson, a 48-year-old black man in Jackson, MS, last June. The U.S. Department of Justice is also looking into the case as a possible federal hate crime.
Dedmon appears to have been the leader of a gang of teens who spent the night drinking and then drove two vehicles eighteen miles from their home county to Jackson looking for trouble. They spotted Mr. Anderson standing in a hotel parking lot, pulled in, and several of the drunken teens got out of the vehicles and commenced to beat him severely while shouting racial epithets including "white power." Most of the incident was caught on the parking lot's security camera.
The teens then got back into their vehicles and started to leave, but Dedmon, the driver of a pickup truck, saw Mr. Anderson stagger into the grass and decided to have another go at him. He allegedly jumped the curb in his truck and ran over the victim, head-on, killing him. Dedmon allegedly boasted and laughed about the killing, and he reportedly telephoned someone in the other vehicle and said, "I ran that nigger over."
Dedmon's attorney said during a bond hearing that he saw nothing to back up the "racial allegations."
Murder charges are now also being considered against one of the other teens, and a total of seven may ultimately be charged with crimes related to the incident.
Mr. Anderson, the victim, was a line worker at a Nissan plant and a member of his church's choir. His family has filled a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court against seven of the teenagers, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has joined in the lawsuit.
But that is not all that the family of Mr. Anderson has done. These people who have suffered a grievous wrong have sent letters to the county and federal officials asking that the death penalty not be imposed in this case. They said they were opposed to the death penalty - partly for religious reasons.
That bears repeating. The family of a black man who was brutally murdered by a gang of white teens in what appears to be an incident motivated by race, is asking that none of the offenders face the death penalty - due, at least in part, to their religious beliefs.
And then the mind must necessarily wander back to the teabagger morons at a recent GOP presidential debate who cheered as Governor Rick Perry of Texas defended his state's passion for the death penalty.
And then the mind must also wander to Troy Davis, a black man who was convicted of shooting a white security guard. Mr. Davis, who has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, will have probably been executed by the state of Georgia by the time you are reading this. Recent witness recantations and a stunning lack of evidence indicate that the chances are good that Mr. Davis is an innocent man.
Many prominent groups and individuals have come forth asking that Troy Davis be granted a new trial or an evidentiary hearing. Speaking on his behalf have been Amnesty International, the NAACP, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Desmond Tutu, and former FBI Director William Sessions. But the state of Georgia appears to be feeling no pangs of guilt other than that which they have assigned to Troy Davis - and as for Christian mercy, well that stuff is for saps.
This world would be a pretty remarkable place if we all had the courage and strength to be as moral as the family of James Craig Anderson. They seem to have actually read the New Testament.