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Deryl Dedmon, who is facing criminal charges in the death of James Craig Anderson, is escorted into a room in the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011. (Joe Ellis/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Deryl Dedmon, who is facing criminal charges in the death of James Craig Anderson, is escorted into a room in the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011. (Joe Ellis/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A week in American capital punishment Add to ...

The Accused

Troy Davis, 42, was accused of shooting Mark MacPhail, a white police officer working as a security guard, in 1989. Physical evidence of his involvement was lacking. A number of witnesses who testified against him later recanted. Former president Jimmy Carter was among hundreds of thousands of people who believed that he was innocent. “I did not personally kill your son, father, brother,” Mr. Davis told the MacPhail family.

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Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, was accused of kidnapping, beating and then dragging to death James Byrd Jr., a black man who was dragged three kilometres down a back road in East Texas while chained to a pickup truck. Mr. Brewer, an avowed white supremacist, blamed a co-accused for the 1998 murder, but refused to send a petition for clemency to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. “He is not a sympathetic person,” said Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

Deryl Dedmon, 19, was indicted on a capital murder charge this week for the killing of black auto worker James Anderson in Jackson, Miss., earlier this year. Prosecutors say that Mr. Anderson, whose death was captured on surveillance video, was assaulted by a group of teenagers in a motel parking lot, before being driven over as he tried to stagger away from the scene. They say the assailants yelled “White power” as they attacked Mr. Anderson.

The State

– Georgia has executed 52 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, including four this year. There were 103 inmates on death row as of Jan. 1. Five people due to be executed have been exonerated after being proved innocent since 1973.

– Texas has executed 475 people since 1976, including 235 since Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry took office as governor. There were 321 inmates on death row as of Jan. 1. Twelve people due to be executed have been exonerated since 1973.

– Mississippi has executed 15 people since 1976 including two this year. There were 60 inmates on death row as of Jan. 1. Three people due to be executed have been exonerated since 1973.

The Families’ Response

– Mark MacPhail’s wife rejected Mr. Davis’s protest that he was innocent and refused to see him as a victim of injustice. “We have lived this for 22 years,” said Joan MacPhail-Harris. “We are victims.…We have laws in this land so that there is not chaos. We are not killing Troy because we want to.”

– James Byrd Jr.’s son spoke out against the execution of the man who killed his father. “Some people say it brings a family closure,” Ross Byrd said in 2003. “But another killing isn’t going to help us heal.” As Texas prepared to go ahead with the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer this week, Mr. Byrd spoke out again. “You can’t fight murder with murder.… I wish the state would take in mind that this isn’t what we want.” But James Byrd’s sisters and niece disagreed and called the execution “the next step to total justice for James.”

– James Anderson’s sister asked Mississippi prosecutor’s not to seek the death penalty. The family’s opposition is “deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James’ life as well,” wrote Barbara Anderson Young. They also reject capital punishment because it has historically been used against black people who have killed whites. “Executing James’ killers will not help balance the scales,” Ms. Young wrote. “But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment.”

The Result

– Mr. Davis was executed on Wednesday.

– Mr. Brewer was executed on Wednesday.

– Mr. Dedmon will likely not face the death penalty after prosecutors said this week they would try to honour the Anderson family’s wishes.

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