March 18th, 2013
07:30 AM ET

Are victims falling through America's hate crime data gap?

By Nicole Krasavage and Scott Bronstein, CNN Special Investigations Unit

Washington (CNN) - Two hit-and-run deaths in rural Mississippi just a few miles apart highlight a disturbing problem about data collection on possible hate crimes.

Last summer, 61-year-old African-American Sunday school teacher Johnny Lee Butts was hit and killed by an 18-year-old white driver. The teen told Panola County Sheriff deputies he thought he hit a deer but the driver's two passengers said he steered straight for Butts. One passenger said he could see that Butts was black. The killing has sparked outrage in the local African-American community. Civil rights groups have demanded that police prosecute Butts' killing as a hate crime.

Nonetheless, prosecutors chose not to.

There was no evidence, authorities said, to suggest a racial motive. The driver was charged with murder. He has not yet pleaded in the case.

Related: Three plead guilty in Mississippi hate crime

In another hit and run, 41-year-old African-American Garrick Burdette was found dead along a Panola County road in November 2009.

His mother, Ruby Burdette, says for three years she had heard nothing about any police investigation into her son's death until CNN began asking about the case.

CNN received no response after calling the Panola County Sheriff's department, but just hours after CNN's call, a sheriff's investigator drove to Ruby Burdette's house.


Filed under: History • How we live • Race • Where we live
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. AniyunweahCherokee

    Look up cannon christian and chris newsome murder.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. AniyunweahCherokee

    What about the Christianson murders? Remember that incident...no? Well im not suprised.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. AniyunweahCherokee

    Are you going to charge the 17black boy that shot a white infant in the face in GA as a hate crime? Kill white babies ring a bell? Hate is a 2way street...and unless you can 100% prove it was racially premeditated, you dont have a hate crime. Although I would argue that all murders are hate related in one form or another.

    March 24, 2013 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike Aldrete

    Mississippi burning again.

    March 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |