Blacks don't get hate crimes charges for their racist attacks on Indians and Whites in Mississippi.
JACKSON, Miss. -- The Deryl Dedmon case has reached national news status, featured more than once on CNN, most recently in last weekend's special, "Is Mississippi Still Burning?"
Dedmon, 19, of Brandon, is accused of seeking out, running down and killing James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old black man.
In a special report aired by 16 WAPT News, Scott Simmons investigated the conversations taking place afterward and whether it should be pursued as a hate crime or as a murder case prosecuted like any other.
The evidence was captured by the surveillance cameras at the Metro Inn, which is on Ellis Avenue, where the June 26 hit-and-run took place. Prosecutors have said that the surveillance video is apparent evidence of the beating and robbery of Anderson. Witnesses said at one point one of the assailants reportedly yelled out, "white power," pumping his fist in the air as he did so.
The video shows minutes later the truck, which prosecutors said was driven by Dedmon, hopped a curb and then ran Anderson down.
On top of capital murder charges, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith has charged Dedmon with a hate crime. A move that, if convicted, could double Dedmon's sentence.
But Surrinder Singh, of the Indian Store Owners Association, said the charges set a double standard. Singh points to an Indian store owner shot allegedly by a black man in September. Singh said it was not the first time. He claimed that black criminals prey on stores owned by Indians because they consider them second-class citizens. Singh said that's a hate crime too.
"All crimes should be hate crimes," Singh said.
The decision to pursue a hate crime charge rests with the investigators and prosecutors, but they said just because the assailant is one color, and the victim another, that does not mean race was a prevailing reason.
Simmons posed the question to civil right leader and Freedom Rider, Hezekiah Watkins.
"If you're asking me if he did that because he was black, I don't know," Watkins said. "But then, you have blacks who kill blacks. Is that a hate crime?"
Smith said Dedmon is charged with a hate crime because of what he allegedly said after the incident.
"According to the testimony, he said, 'I ran that nigger over,'" Smith said.
Smith said that has not been in the case in crimes against Indian store owners.
"If we do have evidence of a hate crime, whether it is an Indian immigrant or (otherwise), we certainly would prosecute that case -- if the evidence is there," Smith said. "We don't neglect to do it. It is just that when the evidence shows up, that is when we prosecute it."
In Rankin County, two black men from Jackson are accused of shooting and killing 37-year old Leslie Doame, a white woman.
White supremacist Richard Barrett was killed by a black man. Vincent McGee, 23, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arson and burglary charges in Rankin County and was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
We didn't feel the basis of that murder was anything other than anger or greed," said Madison/Rankin District Attorney Michael Guest.
Both Rankin County cases involved different races of victims and suspects, but according to Guest, it was not worth bringing up the issue of race when the defendants will either get life or the death penalty if convicted.
"I believe it creates a more difficult burden on the prosecution when we have to come back and say and the reason they did that was racially motivated," Guest said.
The Dedmon case continues to draw national attention because it is not only a capital murder case but one depicting racial strife in a state with no shortage of history of that problem.
Dedmon's trial is set for Jan. 9 in Hinds County.