Family of Man Killed in Hate Crime Says No to Death Penalty

James Anderson’s family doesn’t support the death penalty for religious reasons.

Posted: 09/15/2011 12:22 PM EDT
Filed Under Crime, racism

The family of James Anderson, an African-American man killed by white teens earlier this summer in Mississippi, wrote to the District Attorney asking him not to seek the death penalty for anyone involved in Anderson’s murder.

“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James' murder," the letter states, according to CNN.

The family reasoned that their opposition to the death penalty stems from both their religious faith and their desire not to reciprocate the painful historical use of death penalty against African-Americans in the South.

“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.

"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."

James Anderson died on June 26 after being beaten and run over by a pickup truck by a group of white teens. The violent attack was caught on video and drew national attention. The attack is being considered a hate crime and the U.S. Department of Justice has launched its own investigation into whether federal charges can be brought. Authorities say the teens yelled “white power” and racial slurs during the attack.

Two of the teens, Dedmon and John Aaron Rice, now face murder charges with Dedmon eligible for the death penalty. In addition to the criminal charges, Anderson’s family has also filed a wrongful death suit against all seven of the white teens allegedly involved in the beating.

(Photo: AP/The Clarion-Ledger, Joe Ellis)