White supremacist executed in Texas for
dragging death of black man
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[April 25, 2019]
By Brendan O'Brien
(Reuters) - A white supremacist convicted
of killing James Byrd Jr. in 1998 by dragging the 49-year-old black man
behind a truck in one of the most notorious U.S. hate crimes of modern
times was executed in Texas on Wednesday.
John William "Bill" King, 44, was put to death by lethal injection and
pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m. (0008 GMT Thursday) at the state’s death
chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in
The department said King wrote a last statement that read: "Capital
Punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment."
King, along with Shawn Berry and Lawrence Brewer, was accused of
kidnapping Byrd while he hitchhiked in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998.
Prosecutors said the men dragged him behind their 1982 Ford pickup truck
for 3 miles (5 km) before dumping his body in front of an
African-American church. A "KKK" engraved lighter was among the evidence
police found at the scene, court documents showed.
Brewer, also a white supremacist, was executed in 2011. Berry was
sentenced to life in prison for the crime.
King always maintained his innocence, saying that he left the two other
men before Byrd was killed.
The gruesome killing spurred the passing of the James Byrd Jr. Hate
Crimes Act, strengthening punishments for hate crimes in Texas. The
murder, along with that of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming
student who was beaten and left to die tied to a fence, was also the
genesis of the federal hate crimes prevention act passed in 2009.
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998: Sheriff Billy Rowles (C) and Texas Ranger Ronnie McBride (R)
escort John William "Bill" King, 24, through a Jasper County
Courtroom as the punishment phase of the dragging death trial
continued February 24. King was found guilty Feb. 23, of capital
murder for the death of James Byrd Jr./File Photo
Byrd's sister Carla Taylor read from a family statement after she,
another of his sisters and his niece witnessed the execution.
King's "execution tonight was just punishment for his actions," she
said, noting that Byrd had three children and four grandchildren.
"James' legacy continues to be of peace and nonviolence."
King was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death in
1999. He was a member of a white supremacist gang and spoke of
starting a race war while in prison for a previous crime. He also
talked about initiating new members by having them kidnap and murder
black people, court documents showed.
King was the third inmate in Texas and the fourth in the United
States to be executed in 2019, according to the Death Penalty
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bill Tarrant,
Cynthia Osterman and Peter Cooney)
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