WASHINGTON– The Justice Department announced today that Dale Mardis, a 57 year old white man, was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole, for the racially-motivated killing of black Shelby County, Tenn., Code Enforcement Officer Mickey Wright. Mardis was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald.
Mardis pleaded guilty on March 21, 2011, to the racially-motivated killing of Officer Wright. Last week, federal prosecutors and investigators discovered that Mardis murdered another man, Henry Ackerman, in the summer of 1998. They confronted Mardis with the new information on July 1, 2011, and Mardis confessed to the second murder.
Judge Donald imposed the life sentence after Mardis dropped his objections to the sentencing recommendation and admitted that his killing of Wright was first-degree murder. In addition to agreeing to the federal life sentence, Mardis also agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder for the murder of Ackerman in Shelby County Criminal Court, and to be sentenced to life for that killing as well.
Mardis murdered Mickey Wright on April 17, 2001, and was federally indicted for the killing in January 2008 after pleading no contest to a state court murder charge.
“This defendant committed a heinous act of hate-filled violence, and today's life sentence sends an unmistakable message that such conduct will not be tolerated in our society,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I am hopeful that this sentence will bring some sense of justice for Mickey Wright's loved ones.”
“Although nothing can ever undo their tragic loss, Mickey Wright’s family can take some comfort that Dale Mardis will never again set foot outside of a prison and never again breathe free air,” said U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton, III. “This life sentence marks an important day for the Wright family and for all the people of Memphis. Dale Mardis’s fate proves to the community that hate-crime murders remain a top priority of my office and of the whole federal government.”
“Brutal hate crimes like the one committed by Dale Mardis tear at the fabric of our society, and the Memphis Office of the FBI, through its Civil Rights Task Force, will aggressively pursue those who commit such crimes, aiding victims and helping to heal communities in the process,” said Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis FBI Field Office Amy Hess.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. FBI Special Agent Tracey Harris and former Shelby County Detective Sergeant Joe T. Everson were the lead investigators on the case. The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton, III; Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen C. Parker, head of the Civil Rights Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and Jonathan T. Skrmetti, who began work on the case as a Trial Attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and who is now an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Memphis.