John William King, 44, convicted two decades ago for killing James Byrd Jr. in an act of unfathomable racist brutality in the small town of Jasper, was executed on April 24, 2019 by the State of Texas on with a dose of pentobarbital, reported the New York Times.
The execution, carried out at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, came after the United States Supreme Court turned down Mr. King’s last petition for a stay. He was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m., said Jeremy Desel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Mr. King kept his eyes closed as witnesses arrived to the execution chamber on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. When the prison warden, Bill Lewis, asked him if he had any final words, Mr. King said, “No.”
Mr. King made a final statement issued in writing, Mr. Desel said. “Capital Punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment,” it said.
Early on a Sunday morning in 1998, Mr. King and two other white men attacked Mr. Byrd, a 49-year-old black man who had been offered a ride home in a sinister gesture of neighborliness. The men beat him, spray-painted his face, chained him to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death on an isolated back road. The motive seemed shockingly clear-cut: Mr. King, who had come out of a stint in prison, was a committed white supremacist, his body a billboard of racist tattoos, including one depicting a black man hanged in a noose.
Louvon Harris, a sister of Mr. Byrd’s who planned to attend the execution, said on Tuesday that Mr. King’s death by lethal injection would not compare to the way he had tortured her brother. “He’s not going through any pain,” she said. “He’s not chained and bound and dragged on a concrete road, swinging back and forth like a sack of potatoes, with an arm coming off and being decapitated or nothing like that.”
“When you look at it at that angle,” she continued, “I don’t have sympathy.”
Less than a year after the killing, Mr. King became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person. This was a troubling milestone given that, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, 344 black people were lynched in the 73 years after Reconstruction, a tally that included only documented lynchings and that stopped in 1950.
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