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Monday, October 27, 2008

Victim's Mother Opposes Death Penalty in Case Straining Race Relations in East Texas

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the mother of an African-American run over to death last month in East Texas does not want her son's killers to face the death penalty. Jackie McClelland staunchly opposes the death penalty. The prosecutor has said that the murder charges the perpetrators currently face carry a penalty of five to 99 years or life in prison, so, for now, the victim's mother will get her wish that the death penalty not be on the table, unless the prosecutor decides to seek other charges.

From the DMN

Both suspects were arrested about a week after Mr. McClelland's death and are being held in the Lamar County Jail, with bail set at $500,000 apiece. Mr. Finley was returned to Texas from Wichita, Kan., where he was captured after a manhunt.

Mr. Hubbard said the case will go to the grand jury in November and the earliest likely trial date is next spring.

While some have called for prosecutors to seek the death penalty, the victim's mother said she doesn't believe in capital punishment and just wants justice.


"We want to make sure that anybody that was involved in this gets the right justice, not just a couple of years," said Ms. McClelland. "I think they should get life without parole."
More background on the case from the DMN:
PARIS, Texas – With a black man dead and two white men in jail on murder charges, race relations are again under strain in this northeast Texas county seat, still haunted by high-profile lynchings from its distant past and protests over the jailing of a black teenager two years ago.
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Lynchings part of city's dark past

Blog: Crime

Motorists found Brandon Demon "Big Boy" McClelland's mangled body early Sept. 16 in northeast Lamar County, near a curve in a two-lane county road. Authorities first suspected the 24-year-old was the victim of a hit-and-run, killed by a speeding lumber truck.

But suspicions soon turned to the victim's white drinking buddies: Shannon Keith Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley. Witnesses told police that the men admitted running down Mr. McClelland after an argument. Both suspects maintain their innocence.

District Attorney Gary Young, who is white, said there's no evidence that the killing was a hate crime. But his office welcomes any information on the case, he said.

That doesn't satisfy friends and family of the victim and other members of the black community, including a contingent of the New Black Panthers, who suspect a cover-up and see shades of the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. a decade ago in Jasper, Texas.

"Gary Young decided from the start it was not a hate crime," said Brenda Cherry, who is black and a co-founder of Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality. "They're not going to do anything to make Paris look bad. That's the main thing around here."

The victim's mother, Jackie McClelland, also believes race played a part in her son's death, noting the extent of his injuries.

"I think it was a hate crime," she said. "We couldn't have an open casket."

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