Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler each admitted to conspiracy and violating the 2009 federal hate-crimes law. The each face sentences of up to life in prison and $250,000 fines.
Dedmon admitted in court that he and a group of white teens were drinking in Puckett, a small town outside Jackson, Mississippi when he suggested they find a black man to harass. The group then reportedly went to Jackson because of its majority black population. They found Anderson outside a hotel where he was beaten and then finally run over by Dedmon.
The prosecution represents a real victory for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and paves the way for a possibly similar charge for George Zimmerman in the murder of black teen Trayvon Martin. The Department of Justice has already begun investigations in the Martin murder. A successful prosecution of a high profile case under a new and untested criminal civil rights law is just the kind of momentum a prosecutor likes to have propelling them into another high profile investigation.
It’s worth remembering that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was created specifically because civil rights violations and racially-motivated murders were going unprosecuted. In some cases, like the Trayvon Martin case, local law enforcement was directly involved. This 2009 law gives some teeth back to civil rights enforcement and a time when the need couldn’t be greater.
Photo from Tim Pearce, Los Gatos via flickr.