The family of Anderson has sent a letter asking state and federal officials not to seek the death penalty against the white teens.
“We ask that you not seek the death penalty for anyone involved in James’ murder,” the letter states; the letter is signed by Barbara Anderson Young, Anderson’s sister who is in charge of, and speaks for, the estate of Anderson.
The letter states that the family is opposed to the death penalty partly for religious convictions of faith.
“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. But the letter also goes on to explain that there is a historical reason for the family’s opposition that is tied to Mississippi’s racial past.
“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,” the letter states. “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.”
The Anderson family has also filed a wrongful death suit against all seven of the white teens who were present at the beating of Anderson which immediately preceded the drive-over of the truck. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nationally recognized organization in Montgomery, Ala. that opposes racism and intolerance, joined in the lawsuit to help the case, joining forces with the family’s attorney, Winston J. Thompson III..
“James Anderson lost his life for no other reason than the color of his skin,” said Morris Dees, chief trial counsel for the SPLC . “Those responsible must be held accountable for their callous and deadly actions. We are filing this lawsuit today to ensure his family gets a measure of justice.”
In addition to Dedmon and Rice, the five other teens who took part in the incident that evening, according to the suit, are: 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, Thompson told reporters. He leaves behind his partner of 17 years.