Texas Inmate Scheduled To Die For Gruesome 1998 Dragging Murder

John William King and two other white supremacists chained the African-American victim to a pickup truck during the infamous hate-crime killing.

December 26, 2018
John William King [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]

John William King [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]

John William King [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

JASPER, TX — A Texas judge has ruled an inmate who was convicted of capital murder for his role in helping kill a man by dragging him behind a pickup truck decades ago will be put to death this spring.

District Judge Craig Mixson approved the April 24 execution by lethal injection of John William King after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the coldblooded killer’s last attempt at an appeal for ineffective representation during his trial.

Late in the evening of June 6, 1998, King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry were riding around in a pickup truck when they crossed paths with James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old African-American man who was walking home after a night of drinking with his friends.

The locally notorious white supremacists offered Byrd a ride. He accepted and the three attacked their passenger, spray painting his face and attaching him to the truck with a logging chain. They then dragged Byrd to his death along the remote Huff Creek Road.

“The fact that a human being, a living, breathing human being, would jump [and beat a man] — chain wrapped around his legs and [dragged] behind the truck for close to three miles — that is so far over my head that anyone could do something like that,” said former Jasper County Sheriff Billy Rowles in a recent interview with NBC5.

After Byrd was dead, the trio untied the dismembered body from the truck, left it in front of an African-American cemetery, and went home to bed.

“He was tortured like an animal,” Louvon Harris, 60, told The New York Times about the end of her brother’s life. “I can’t see a human being doing this to another if you have any amount of humanity in you.”

King, Brewer, and Berry were quickly apprehended and charged with Byrd’s gruesome death. Brewer was executed at age 44 in 2011. Berry, the now-43-year-old who drove the truck the night Byrd was murdered, is serving a sentence of life in prison.

“They killed him because he was Black,” noted Sheriff Rowles, 73. “This was the first time I heard the words ‘hate crime.’”

The homicides of both Byrd and Matthew Shepard, who was assassinated in 1998 for being gay, inspired the Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009.

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