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Wednesday
Sep212011

Death Penalty 'Unlikely' for White Teen Accused of Running over Black Man

Dynamic Graphics/Thinkstock(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Prosecutors are "unlikely" to pursue the death penalty for Deryl Dedmon, the white Mississippi teen charged with running over a black man with a pickup truck, because the family of the victim opposes the death penalty for religious reasons, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith said Wednesday.

Smith told ABC he plans to make a formal announcement in the next two days, after strongly considering the family's wishes to spare Dedmon, 19, who was indicted with capital murder this week by a special grand jury.

James Anderson, an auto worker, was killed June 26 in Jackson, Miss. His murder received renewed attention when grisly surveillance video of his death surfaced in August.

In the letter sent to Smith, dated Sept. 13, Anderson's sister, Barbara Anderson Young, said she spoke on behalf of their mother and her two brothers in asking prosecutors not to seek capital punishment, saying the family's opposition to the death penalty is "deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James' life as well."

"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 says. "Executing James' killers will not help 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 attorney, Winston Thompson III, told ABC on Wednesday that they want "everyone that was involved punished to the fullest extent of the law" and would be "very happy with life in prison without out parole," which would be the next harshest punishment after the death penalty.

After discussing the issue, the family's decision was "unanimous," Thompson said. "Really it was Mr. Anderson's mother [who led the family in coming to this decision]. She's 85 years old...she said, 'This is what I would like.'"

Dedmon's trial will most likely be held next year.

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