(Reuters) – A white Mississippi teenager pleaded not guilty on Friday to a capital murder charge stemming from the fatal hit-and-run of a black man in a motel parking lot.
A judge ordered Deryl Dedmon, 19, to stand trial on January 9 and gave prosecutors until November 1 to decide if they will seek the death penalty in the case, court administrator Karla Watkins said.
Dedmon is accused of running down James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old Nissan autoworker who was returning to his car before dawn on June 26 when he was confronted by a group of white teenagers in a motel parking lot.
Video of the incident, caught by a hotel security camera, has been played on cable television news, and the FBI was investigating the case as a possible civil rights violation, which can include hate crimes.
According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Anderson’s family, the teens had been drinking and were on a mission to target black people. Some of the teens took turns beating Anderson before he was struck with a Ford F-250 truck, the suit said. Anderson died at the scene.
Another teen, John Aaron Rice, has been charged with simple assault in the case.
An attorney for Dedmon could not be reached for comment on Friday.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
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