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Mississippi teen charged with capital murder in alleged hate killing

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 9:55 PM EDT, Tue September 20, 2011
Deryl Paul Dedmon's lawyer has told the court there is nothing to back up the
Deryl Paul Dedmon's lawyer has told the court there is nothing to back up the "racial allegations."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Deryl Paul Dedmon, 19, is also charged with a hate-crime enhancement
  • James Craig Anderson, 48, who is black, was beaten by a group of white teens
  • Anderson, a factory worker who sang in a church choir, was also run over by a truck
  • Prosecutor plans to seek indictments against other teens allegedly involved

(CNN) -- A 19-year-old Mississippi man was charged with capital murder Tuesday in the death of an African-American man who died after allegedly being beaten by a group of white teens and run over by a truck, authorities said.

Deryl Paul Dedmon, 19, of Brandon, Mississippi was also charged by a grand jury with hate-crime enhancement in the murder of James Craig Anderson, said Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.

The indictment alleges that Dedmon killed Anderson while in the commission of committing felony robbery, Smith said in a statement.

Anderson's family, however, is asking state and federal officials not to seek the death penalty in the case.

Relatives of Anderson, who died shortly after receiving his injuries on June 26, sent a letter with their request to Smith, saying the family is opposed to the death penalty partly for religious reasons.

The indictment against Dedmon alleged Anderson was targeted because of his race.

Dedmon's arraignment has yet to be scheduled, Smith said.

Federal authorities have joined the local investigation, and both authorities are determining "the appropriate venue for the prosecution of any remaining suspects," Smith's statement said.

"All options are being considered and with each passing day, more evidence is being gathered," Smith said.

The death of Anderson, 48, occurred early June 26 in Jackson, allegedly at the hands of white teens who, after a night of partying and drinking, decided to go looking for black people to assault, law enforcement officials have said, quoting one of the suspects in the case.

Watch: Incident caught on video

Anderson's death drew national attention after CNN first reported it and aired exclusive surveillance video of the killing, captured by a parking lot security camera in a Jackson suburb.

Smith, the district attorney, has called it "vicious" and a "premeditated hate crime."

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the death as a possible federal hate crime and assisting local prosecutors. The killing has also prompted several large marches and prayer vigils in Jackson, a city of about 175,000 people.

A second teen, John Aaron Rice, 18, was initially charged with murder, but a judge reduced the charge to simple assault because Rice was not believed to be driving the vehicle used to kill Anderson.

However, Hinds County prosecutors have said they plan to seek indictments against Rice for murder and a hate crime, and will seek indictments against other teens who were at the scene.

The district attorney's office has not officially commented on the family's request for no death penalty in the case.

Last week, the Anderson family filed a wrongful death suit against all seven of the white teens alleged to have been present at the beating of Anderson that immediately preceded him being run over by the truck. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nationally recognized organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, that opposes racism and intolerance, joined the lawsuit.

In addition to Dedmon and Rice, the lawsuit names five other teens as taking part in the incident: Sarah Graves of Crystal Springs; Shelbie Richards of Pearl; and William Kirk Montgomery, John Blaylock and Dylan Butler, all of Brandon. None of the five has been arrested or charged.

Anderson, a line worker at a Nissan plant, sang in his church choir, according to the family's attorney, Winston J. Thompson III. He leaves behind his partner of 17 years.

Attorneys for Dedmon and Rice have not responded to requests for comment from CNN.

During a recent bond hearing, Dedmon's attorney told the court he saw nothing to back up the "racial allegations."

A civil trial can proceed at the same time as a criminal case, but often the civil case is delayed pending the resolution of a criminal trial. While a criminal case is pending, a defendant in a civil case may need to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Authorities believe Dedmon led and instigated the attack, which took place after a night of drinking in largely white Rankin County, outside Jackson.

The gang of teens climbed into Dedmon's green truck and a white SUV and drove 16 miles to the western edge of Jackson. They would have seen Anderson immediately as they exited the highway, officials said. He was standing in a hotel parking lot just beyond the exit ramp.

On the videotape obtained exclusively by CNN, the group of teens is seen pulling into the parking lot and stopping where Anderson is standing, although he is just off camera and not visible.

The teens can then be seen going back and forth between their cars and Anderson.

Witnesses told authorities this is when Anderson's beating took place, as the teens yelled racial epithets, including "white power."

Authorities allege Dedmon and many of the other teens pummeled Anderson repeatedly as he crumpled to the ground, although this is not visible on the tape. After the beating, some of the teens left and others got into the green Ford truck.

At this moment, Anderson becomes visible on the tape as he staggers into view and walks toward the truck.

"Defendant Dedmon drove the F-250 out of the parking lot and turned right onto Ellis Avenue," the lawsuit says. "Just as Dedmon turned right, his headlights shone directly on Anderson, who, having been severely beaten, was stumbling in a grassy area near the motel's entrance. Dedmon accelerated, drove onto and over the street curb, and struck Anderson with the front of the F-250."

Shortly afterward, Dedmon allegedly boasted and laughed about the killing, according to statements some of the teens made to detectives. "I ran that n----- over," he allegedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the other car.

The proceedings of the case are taking place in the Hinds County courthouse, where in 1994 Byron de la Beckwith was convicted in the notorious killing of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963.

CNN Special Investigation Unit's Drew Griffin and Scott Bronstein contributed to this report.

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