National News

Skeptical Mississippi family, activists see support growing for questions about death

By Jesse Muhammad -Staff writer- | Last updated: Jan 10, 2011 - 10:21:11 PM

What's your opinion on this article?

( - It was the first time in 26 years that Brenda Carter-Evans celebrated Christmas and ushered in a New Year without the physical presence of her son Frederick Jermaine Carter.

“It has not been easy but this family is so strong because of their faith in God. They are very grateful for all of the support and love of everyone,” said attorney Valerie Hicks Powe, who is representing the grieving mother.

The body of Mr. Carter was found hanging from a tree Dec. 3. Sheriff Ricky Banks publicly declared the incident a suicide based upon a preliminary autopsy report from the county coroner's office after the body was found.

The story has since drawn global attention with the images of Mr. Carter being circulated via popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The attorney, family members and supporters have taken to the airwaves as guests on radio shows to ensure that the outcry does not die down.

On Dec. 28, the Memphis-based group Operation Help held a press conference at the Three Rivers Inn and Suites in Greenwood, Miss., to further voice their support.

“We gathered some new information regarding this hanging but we were advised to hold off until after the results of the second examination of the body have come in,” Wendol Lee, who heads the group, told The Final Call.

Members of the civil rights group held up signs reading “No Justice, No Peace” along with copies of The Final Call newspaper (Vol. 30, No. 11) bearing the gruesome image of Mr. Carter's hanging from the oak tree, according to the group.

Chicago-based activist C.L. Sparks, who recently founded the People's Action Coalition of Mississippi, traveled south to attend the press conference and visit the crime scene.

“I'm very familiar with the areas of Greenville and Greenwood because I grew up there 10 miles away in Cleveland, Miss. So I know what goes on down there,” Mr. Sparks told The Final Call.

Mr. Sparks' organization works closely with Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition. After visiting the scene, Mr. Sparks joined the chorus of those who refuse to accept the notion of suicide declared by the coroner.

“I couldn't see how he could have hung himself and it's amazing that the scene still wasn't blocked off. It's doesn't make sense. I believe the second autopsy by the family is the best thing to do because there are too many inconsistencies. This is the stench of Mississippi,” said Mr. Sparks.

Robert Moore, of the Leflore County Board of Supervisors, said, “Hanging ourselves is just something we as Black people do not do to kill ourselves. Usually when we do kill ourselves, it is not from a tree. They (law officials) have leaned towards suicide but we believe there has been some foul play here. This is a crime.”

“The Blacks in this county and in Greenwood believe further investigation was necessary. But the Whites keep leaning towards the notion that the guy was ‘mentally challenged.' I'm sure most of the Whites hope it's a suicide because if it is found to be a hate crime then that would speak volumes about the race relations in this area and throughout Mississippi,” said Mr. Moore.

Irongu Redmond, 63, of Tunica, Miss., has witnessed decades of Blacks struggling against oppression in the South.

“How this young brother hung himself with the tree being so high? Down here the White man can tell you anything and Blacks will believe it. Fear has been rooted in a lot of Black people here. We have a lot of preachers afraid to preach unity and we have too many cowards,” said Mr. Redmond, a local activist.

Attorney Powe could not give an exact date when the results from the second examination will be released but said “the process has started.”

Related news:

Family seeks expert second opinion in hanging case (FCN, 12-30-2010)

Hundreds pack church, remember Mississippi hanging victim (FCN, 12-23-2010)

Community refuses to accept suicide (FCN, 12-23-2010)

Blacks doubt death in small Southern town is a suicide (FCN, 12-16-2010)