James Byrd Jr.’s killer executed in Texas

John William King faces the death penalty in modern lynching case.

Elizabeth Kaiser graphic

Elizabeth Kaiser graphic

White supremacist John William King was executed at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville on April 24, 2019, for the heinous murder of James Byrd Jr. 

Byrd was a Black man from Jasper, Texas. The brutal murder of Byrd took place on June 7, 1998. Byrd was attacked and chained to the back of a truck where he was dragged to his death by three white men: King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry. 

According to Britannica, King and Brewer were associated with the same white supremacy group while they met in prison before the murder, and they both allegedly had multiple racist tattoos. The three men offered Byrd a ride home in the early morning of June 7, but instead of taking him home, the three men drove their pickup truck to the east edge of Jasper into a small clearing in the woods. They proceeded to attack Byrd, spray his face with black paint and tie his ankles to chains on the bed of the pickup. 

The men then drove the truck approximately three miles with Byrd dragging behind. According to autopsy results, Byrd was alive for most of this attack, and he most-likely did not die until his head, shoulder and right arm were severed from his body when it hit a culvert in the road.

Since two of the three men were associated with a white supremacy group, law enforcement deemed this murder a hate crime. Three separate trials ensued, and all three men were found guilty of capital murder, defined by US Legal as “murder that is punishable as the most serious category of felony.” 

Both Brewer and King were sentenced to the death penalty, and Berry received life in prison. Brewer was executed in 2011, and King was recently executed on April 24, 2019. The process took a while due to the case being taken to the Supreme Court.

King was quoted in his writing telling Brewer that “regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history and shall die proudly remembered if need be…Much Aryan love, [respect] and honor, my brother in arms.”

Disgusted, the family of Byrd made statements at King’s execution, quoted in The Daily Caller and USA Today: 

“King showed no remorse then and showed no remorse tonight [April 24]…This execution tonight was just punishment for his actions.”

“It’s a very, very sad time…You don’t feel any satisfaction in observing this[,] but it is absolutely necessary to send a message: Hate crimes – especially this type of savagery – will not be tolerated in our society.”