Sept. 30, 2011
During his arraignment hearing this morning, Rankin County teenager Deryl Dedmon pled not guilty to the capital murder of James Craig Anderson.
Dedmon is accused of leading a group of teens in the June 26 attack of Anderson because he was black. Dedmond allegedly ran him over with his green F-250 Ford truck in front of the Metro Inn on Ellis Avenue.
Attorneys representing the 19-year-old requested a gag order that would prevent defense attorneys and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith from speaking publicly about the case. Judge Jeff Weill, however, denied the request.
Smith said the gag order would not have made a difference in the case.
Dedmon's attorney, Lee Agnew, refused to speak with the media and instead presented a written statement:
"Considering the very serious nature of these allegations and subsequent charges, it is not surprising that this matter has quickly gained a great deal of negative attention; however, let us not forget the fundamental principles which lies at the base of our criminal justice system: due process of law, the right to counsel; the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence for every person and until otherwise proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a presence of a jury of their peers."
Weill also set a Jan. 9 trial date for the hearing, and Dedmon is being held without bond. Weill also asked prosecutors to inform the court if they will seek the death penalty for Dedmon. Dedmon would face stiffer penalties under the state's hate crime statute.
Earlier this month, the Anderson family asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty for Dedmon.
"Those responsible for James' death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man," Barbara Anderson Young wrote in a letter to Smith. "They also have caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. As Coretta Scott King stated in explaining her opposition to the death penalty: 'An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life.'"
Smith said he would consider the family's request.
John Aaron Rice faces charges of simple assault in Anderson's death and is the only other teen facing charges at this time.
On Sept. 6, Jackson attorney Winston Thompson III of the Cochran Law Firm along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of Anderson's family, against Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice, Sarah Graves, Shelbie Richards, William Kirk Montgomery and Dylan Butler. All are 18 or 19 years of age with one 17-year-old defendant included as well.
The lawsuit states that on June 26 the group of teens took turns beating Anderson in the parking lot of the Metro Inn hotel in Jackson and accuses all the teens of doing nothing to stop the attack, help Anderson or notify police.
Also see: "Family Files Wrongful Death Suit
Hundreds March to Heal and Denounce
Perhaps it is due to my limited knowledge of MS law; however, I am trying to understand why all of the teens who took turns beating Anderson in the parking lot and what eventually led to his death, were not charged with murder: At least assessory charges.
I understand the filing of the Civil Suit but all should, in my opinion, have criminal charges also and not just "simple assalt" charges against one of this disturbed gang of hate-filled teens.
My heart goes out to the Anderson family and friends. I wonder if this group had known the humanitarian thoughts and feeling of Anderson's family, would they have taken his life?