The beating and killing of James C. Anderson has drawn national outrage, but his sister said his killer or killers shouldn't be executed.
"Those responsible for James' death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man," Barbara Anderson Young wrote in her letter Wednesday to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. "They also have caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another."
The June 26 slaying of Anderson in Jackson has sparked attention across the country as an alleged hate crime.
Smith said the letter resolves the question of the family's wishes, which he said would "weigh heavily" in deciding whether to pursue the death penalty against 19-year-old Deryl Dedmon Jr. of Brandon, who is charged with capital murder. Another defendant, John Aaron Rice, 18, of Brandon, is charged with simple assault.
A capital murder conviction carries the death penalty or life without parole. Those convicted of murder can petition for parole starting at age 65.
In her letter, Young quoted Coretta Scott King in explaining her opposition to capital punishment: "An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life."
Young wrote that 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. Our Savior Jesus Christ rejected the old way of an eye for an eye and taught us instead to turn the other cheek. He died that we might have everlasting life and, in doing so, asked that the lives of the two common criminals nailed to the crosses beside him be spared. We can do no less."
She said the family also opposes any execution "because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites. Executing James' killers will not help to balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment."
The killing is being investigated by Jackson police, the U.S. Department of Justice and Smith's office.
Young thanked them Wednesday for their investigations.
"We hope that the criminal prosecutions will send a strong and clear message to those with hate in their hearts. We simply ask that that message be tempered with the love of our Savior," she wrote.
The family has started the James C. Anderson Foundation for Racial Tolerance "to help build bridges between the races," she said. "We appeal to men and women of goodwill to join hands with our family in launching a renewed movement of reconciliation, acceptance and hope."