James Craig Anderson, a black Mississippi man, was killed in 2011 by ten white teenagers, who, according to police, had decided to "go fuck with some niggers."
In a horrific attack that's been called a "brutal, Jim Crow-style lynching," they reportedly found Anderson in a parking lot, brutalized him, and ran over him with a pickup truck while yelling "white power."
Three of the defendants — Deryl Dedmon, Dylan Butler and John Rice — each pleaded guilty in March 2012 to one count of conspiracy and one count of committing a hate crime. They were sentenced Tuesday by a federal district court judge Carlton Reeves.
Reeves, who was appointed by President Obama in 2010, is the second African-American federal judge to serve in Mississippi. He used his remarks at the sentencing hearing to give an unflinching analysis of the tragedy and the long history of racism — especially in that state — that inspired it.
The blog Breach of Peace published Reeves' entire statement, which includes Anderson's analysis of what he calls Mississippi's "infatuation with lynchings," as well the things that give him hope for the future — like a system that now includes racially diverse officials who "know that in advancing the rule of law, the criminal justice system must operate without regard to race, creed or color."
The most striking part of the speech is when, after enumerating some of their horrific actions, he clearly details the force behind the tragedy: racial hatred. He says it's both what turned the teenage boys into criminals, and what doomed their victim at birth:
I asked the question earlier, but what could transform these young adults into the violent creatures their victims saw? It was nothing the victims did . . . they were not championing any cause . . . political . . . social . . . economic . . . nothing they did . . . not a wolf whistle . . . not a supposed crime . . . nothing they did. There is absolutely no doubt that in the view of the Court the victims were targeted because of their race.
The simple fact is that what turned these children into criminal defendants was their joint decision to act on racial hatred. In the eyes of these defendants (and their coconspirators) the victims were doomed at birth . . . their genetic make-up made them targets.
The seven others defendants are awaiting sentencing.
Reeves' entire statement over at Breach of Peace is worth reading.