HUNTSVILLE, Texas – An avowed racist who orchestrated one of the ugly hate crimes in U.S. historical past was executed Wednesday in Texas for the dragging demise of a black man.
John William King, who was white, obtained a 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 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 one in every of a black man with a noose round his neck hanging from a tree, in keeping with authorities.
King, 44, was put to demise 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 stored his eyes closed as witnesses arrived within the demise chamber and by no means turned his head towards family of his sufferer. Requested by Warden Invoice Lewis if he had a remaining 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 lifeless at 7:08 p.m. CDT, 12 minutes after the drug started.
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 completely happy 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 attorneys had tried to cease his execution, arguing King’s constitutional rights had been violated as a result of his trial attorneys did not current his claims of innocence and conceded his guilt.
The U.S. Supreme Courtroom rejected King’s last-minute attraction.
“From the time of indictment by his trial, Mr. King maintained his absolute innocence, claiming that he had left his co-defendants and Mr. Byrd someday previous to his demise and was not current on the scene of his homicide. Mr. King repeatedly expressed to protection counsel that he wished to current his innocence declare at trial,” A. Richard Ellis, one in every of King’s attorneys, wrote in his petition to the Supreme Courtroom.
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.
Through the years, King had additionally instructed the brutal slaying was not a hate crime, however a drug deal gone dangerous involving his co-defendants.
King, who grew up in Jasper and was often known as “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.”
Louvon Byrd Harris mentioned earlier this month that King’s execution for her brother’s slaying would ship a “message to the world that whenever you do one thing horrible like that, that you need to pay the excessive penalty.”
King and Brewer received “a straightforward method out” in comparison with “all of the struggling” that Byrd confronted, Harris mentioned.
Billy Rowles, who led the investigation into Byrd’s demise when he was sheriff in Jasper County, mentioned after King was taken to demise row in 1999, he supplied 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’ll get the remainder of the story,” mentioned Rowles, who now could be sheriff of Newton County.
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 the Byrd Basis for Racial Therapeutic to make sure her brother’s demise continues to fight hate in every single place.
“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.
Lozano reported from Houston.
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