A white teenager received two life sentences after pleading guilty Wednesday to murder and a hate crime for running over a black man with his pickup truck.
Deryl Dedmon, 19, was indicted for capital murder in the June 26 death of James Craig Anderson, a 47-year-old car plant worker who was remembered for his love of church and his sense of humor.
Dedmon admitted that he and a group of friends were partying in a small town outside Jackson, when he suggested that they go find a black man to harass.
The group of white teens chose Jackson because of its majority-black population.
Dedmon, who was driving, found Anderson standing outside a hotel just before dawn.
Anderson was beaten before Dedmon backed his truck up in the hotel parking lot and accelerated into Anderson, running him over and killing him.
It wasn’t the first time Dedmon and his friends had harassed black people just for kicks. He usually targeted the homeless or drunks who weren’t likely to report it to police, according to USA Today.
Before his sentence was handed down Wednesday, Dedmon turned to Anderson’s family and asked for forgiveness.
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“I am sincerely sorry. I do take full responsibility for my actions on that night. I pray for y’all’s family every day … and that God will soften your hearts to forgive me,” Dedmon said as members of both families wiped away tears.
He continued: “I was young. I was dumb. I was ignorant … I was not raised the way that I acted that night. I was raised in a godly house. As I stand before you today, I am a changed man. I am a godly man. God has showed me to see no colors. God showed me that we are all made in the image of God so we are all based on the same thing … I do not ask y’all to forget, but I do ask y’all to forgive.”
But the judge presiding over the hearing was not so forgiving.
“Your prejudice has brought shame upon you and placed a great stain on the state of Mississippi,” said Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill Sr.
“Whatever excuse you may offer for what you have done, forget that. There’s no excuse that you can offer for the family of Mr. Anderson or to your fellow Mississippians who have to try to reconcile the horrible damage you have caused,” Weill said.
Recalling the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers that became known as “Mississippi Burning,” Hinds said, “All the hard work we have done to move our state forward from that earthen dam in Neshoba County to here has been stained by you. A stain that will take years to fade.”