An avowed racist who orchestrated one of the vital grotesque hate crimes in U.S. historical past was executed Wednesday in Texas for the dragging loss of life of a black man.
John William King, who was white, acquired deadly injection for the slaying almost 21 years in the past of James Byrd Jr., who was chained to the again of a truck and dragged for almost three miles (5 kilometers) alongside a secluded highway within the piney woods outdoors Jasper, Texas. The 49-year-old Byrd was alive for at the very least 2 miles (three kilometers) earlier than his physique was ripped to items within the early morning hours of June 7, 1998.
Prosecutors mentioned Byrd was focused as a result of he was black. King was overtly racist and had offensive tattoos on his physique, together with considered one of a black man with a noose round his neck hanging from a tree, in accordance with authorities.
King, 44, was put to loss of life on the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. He was the fourth inmate executed this yr within the U.S. and the third in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.
King saved his eyes closed as witnesses arrived within the loss of life chamber and by no means turned his head towards kinfolk of his sufferer. Requested by Warden Invoice Lewis if he had a last assertion, King replied: “No.”
Inside seconds, the deadly dose of the sedative pentobarbital started taking impact. He took a number of barely audible breaths and had no different motion. He was pronounced useless at 7:08 p.m. CDT, 12 minutes after the drug started.
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In a press release launched after his execution, King mentioned: “Capital punishment: them with out the capital get the punishment.”
Byrd’s sister, Clara Taylor, who watched King die, mentioned he “confirmed no regret then and confirmed no regret tonight.”
“The execution for his crime was simply punishment,” she mentioned. “I felt nothing — no sense of aid, no sense of joyful that is over with.”
As witnesses emerged from the jail, about two dozen individuals standing down the road started to cheer.
The killing of Byrd was a hate crime that put a nationwide highlight on Jasper, a city of about 7,600 residents close to the Texas-Louisiana border that was branded with a racist stigma it has tried to shake off ever since. Native officers say the popularity is undeserved.
King’s appellate legal professionals had tried to cease his execution, arguing King’s constitutional rights had been violated as a result of his trial attorneys didn’t current his claims of innocence and conceded his guilt.
The U.S. Supreme Court docket rejected King’s last-minute enchantment.
“From the time of indictment by way of his trial, Mr. King maintained his absolute innocence, claiming that he had left his co-defendants and Mr. Byrd someday previous to his loss of life and was not current on the scene of his homicide. Mr. King repeatedly expressed to protection counsel that he needed to current his innocence declare at trial,” A. Richard Ellis, considered one of King’s attorneys, wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court docket.
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The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles additionally turned down King’s request for both a commutation of his sentence or a 120-day reprieve.
Over time, King had additionally urged the brutal slaying was not a hate crime, however a drug deal gone unhealthy involving his co-defendants.
King, who grew up in Jasper and was often called “Invoice,” was the second man executed for Byrd’s killing. Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in 2011. The third participant, Shawn Allen Berry, was sentenced to life in jail.
King declined an interview request from The Related Press within the weeks main as much as his execution.
In a 2001 interview with the AP, King mentioned he was an “avowed racist” however wasn’t “a hate-monger assassin.”
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Louvon Byrd Harris, considered one of Byrd’s sisters, mentioned earlier this month that King’s execution would ship a “message to the world that once you do one thing horrible like that, that you must pay the excessive penalty.”
King and Brewer obtained “a straightforward method out” in comparison with “all of the struggling” that her brother suffered, Harris mentioned.
Billy Rowles, who led the investigation into Byrd’s loss of life when he was sheriff in Jasper County, mentioned after King was taken to loss of life row in 1999, he provided to element the crime as quickly as his co-defendants had been convicted. When Rowles returned, all King would say was, “I wasn’t there.”
“He performed us like a fiddle, getting us to go over there and pondering we’re going to get the remainder of the story,” mentioned Rowles, who now could be sheriff of Newton County.
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Every week earlier than Brewer was executed in 2011, Rowles mentioned he visited Brewer, who confirmed “the entire thing was Invoice King’s concept.”
Mylinda Byrd Washington, one other of Byrd’s sisters, mentioned earlier this month that the household will work by way of the Byrd Basis for Racial Therapeutic to make sure her brother’s loss of life continues to fight hate in all places.
“I hope individuals keep in mind him not as a hate crime statistic. This was an actual particular person. A household man, a father, a brother and a son,” she mentioned.