A white Mississippi teenager has been indicted for capital murder and a hate crime on charges he intentionally ran over a middle-age black man with a pickup truck.
Deryl Dedmon, 19, was indicted Monday in the June 26 death of James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old car plant worker from Jackson.
Capital murder in Mississippi is defined as murder committed along with another felony. It carries the sentences of death or life in prison without parole. The underlying offense in this case is robbery. Dedmon also was charged under Mississippi’s hate crime law, which provides for enhanced sentences. This is the first announced indictment in the case.
Dedmon’s lawyer, Lee Agnew, didn’t immediately respond to a message Wednesday. He has suggested it was an accident.
Authorities say seven white teenagers were partying in Rankin County the night of Anderson’s death when Dedmon suggested they go find a black man to “mess with.”
Detective Eric Smith testified at a hearing in July that Dedmon had been robbed in the weeks before Anderson’s death and that he was looking for “some sort of revenge,” though there was no evidence Anderson was responsible for the robbery.
Prosecutors say seven teenagers loaded up in two cars and headed for nearby Jackson where they found Anderson in a hotel parking lot on Ellis Avenue.
Dedmon and another teen allegedly beat Anderson before Dedmon jumped in a green Ford F-250 and ran over the dazed man. Authorities say Dedmon also robbed Anderson, but they haven’t said what he took.
Authorities said Dedmon later bragged that he had run over Anderson, using a racial slur to describe him.
The case got significant attention across the country when a video of the incident was made public.
It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone else was indicted in the case. The documents had not been filed with the court and the district attorney didn’t immediately respond to messages.
Jackson police initially charged another teenager, John Aaron Rice, with murder. A judge reduced that charge to simple assault after a detective testified that Rice left the scene in another car before Anderson was run over.
Rice’s lawyer, Samuel Martin, had no comment when contacted Wednesday.
Martin has suggested in court hearings that Rice was actually trying to help Anderson, who had locked his keys in his car, before Dedmon arrived. Martin has also said that the teens were out on a beer run, not looking for a black man to assault as prosecutors say.
The hotel’s surveillance video, obtained by The Associated Press and other media, shows a white Jeep Cherokee in which Rice was allegedly a passenger leaving a hotel parking lot at 5:05 a.m. Less than 20 seconds later, a Ford truck backs up and then lunges forward. Anderson’s shirt is illuminated in the headlights before he disappears under the vehicle next to the curb.
District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith has said in the past that he would present evidence to the grand jury about all seven teenagers, but it wasn’t clear if that has been done. It’s also not clear if the grand jury is still reviewing evidence in the case. Grand juries work in secret.
Anderson’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against all seven teens, including two young girls who were allegedly in the truck with Dedmon. Anderson’s sister has asked prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty, saying the family is opposed to capital punishment.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, but the family’s attorney, Winston Thompson, said he also wants to make sure all the facts come out. The Southern Poverty Law Center is assisting Thompson with the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Rice, Dedmon and two others approached Anderson in the parking lot and surrounded him. It says Rice and Dedmon then attacked him “with the cooperation and encouragement” of the others. The three people who stayed in the vehicles during the attack acted as lookouts, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also said one of the teens screamed “white power” during the assault.
Rice has been free on a $5,000 bond. Dedmon has been held without bail.
The FBI is investigating the case, too.
SOURCE: The Associated Press