Whereas most murders are brutal, the viciousness of Byrd’s killing shocked the world. NBA star Dennis Rodman got here ahead to pay for Byrd’s funeral. Filmmakers produced a number of documentaries. Artists together with Geto Boys, Drive-By Truckers and Will Smith referenced the violent saga of their songs. Maryland poet laureate Lucille Clifton penned an ode to Byrd.
King has lengthy maintained his innocence, as soon as sending a letter to the Dallas Morning Information that might later be used in opposition to him. He has mentioned that the proof introduced in his case was circumstantial and that Berry was solely accountable for Byrd’s dying.
“I do not really feel justice was served,” she informed CNN. “Lawrence Brewer was simply given an choice to take some medicine in his arm and fall asleep. My father wasn’t provided that choice. He was brutally tortured for three miles, till he was dismembered.”
A contemporary-day lynching
It is laborious to explain what occurred to Byrd as something aside from a modern-day lynching: King, Brewer and Berry picked up Byrd and drove him to a secluded space the place they beat him and spray-painted his face earlier than tying a logging chain round his ankles and dragging him behind a pickup truck for nearly three miles.
Police discovered most of Byrd’s physique June 7, 1998, a Sunday, in entrance of a church outdoors Jasper, Texas, a couple of two-hour drive northeast of Houston, not removed from the Louisiana border. The church was house to a black cemetery. The remainder of Byrd’s physique was discovered a couple of mile and a half away, courtroom information point out.
“Byrd’s dying and dismemberment had been prompted, in accordance with the pathologist, when he was slung right into a culvert on the facet of the highway,” in accordance with the information.
A path of blood led investigators to a area that confirmed indicators of a scuffle. There, police recovered a lighter engraved with “KKK” and “Possum,” cigarette butts, a button from Byrd’s shirt, Byrd’s baseball cap and a wrench inscribed with the identify “Berry.”
Byrd’s acquaintances informed police they’d seen Byrd at a celebration the night time of June 6, that he’d left round 2 a.m. and was later seen using within the mattress of a pickup with three white males within the cab.
After stopping Berry for a site visitors violation June 8, 1998, police discovered a instrument set matching the wrench, blood spatters below the truck and a rust stain within the sample of a series. The blood matched Byrd’s, and the tires on Berry’s truck matched tracks on the scene.
The cigarette butts contained King’s DNA, and police realized King’s nickname was Possum. Investigators additionally discovered a 24-foot logging chain in a lined gap within the woods behind a house belonging to King’s and Brewer’s buddy.
One other damning piece of proof was a wall scribbling in King’s cell by which he described Berry, who had confessed and cooperated with police, as a “snitch ass traitor.”
‘We’ve got made historical past and shall die proudly remembered’
Although the motive was by no means particularly outlined, race was a theme in King’s trial. Prosecutors introduced proof that King had been an “exalted cyclops” of the white supremacist Accomplice Knights of America and commonly drew lynching scenes.
His tattoos included a burning cross, the double lightning bolt insignia of Adolf Hitler’s paramilitary Schutzstaffel, a robed Ku Klux Klansman, a swastika, the phrases “Aryan Satisfaction” and a black man hanging from a tree.
Gang consultants testified King was recruiting others to his trigger — an all-out race warfare — and that leaving Byrd’s physique in entrance of the church, moderately than obscuring it, “demonstrated that the crime was meant to unfold terror.”
Prosecutors additionally introduced a be aware they mentioned King had tried to smuggle to Brewer in jail, in accordance with courtroom information.
“Significantly, although, Bro, whatever the end result of this, now we have made historical past and shall die proudly remembered if want be,” King wrote, signing it, “A lot Aryan love … Possum.”
The black inmates, Nolan claimed, repeatedly gang-raped King.
“This was precisely what the white energy gang needed,” he wrote. “Stuffed with hatred, King was simply recruited into their group for defense. Over the rest of his sentence, they crammed King’s head filled with hatred for blacks. When he was launched, John King unleashed that pent-up hatred on James Byrd.”
Brewer, whom King met in jail, additionally joined the Accomplice Knights of America for defense, courtroom information present. Each males had been launched in mid-1997, months earlier than Byrd’s killing.
King has by no means confessed to the killing
King by no means confessed to his crimes and he did not testify at his 1999 trial, although a letter he despatched to the Dallas Morning Information was introduced as proof. In it, he referred to as Berry “a daft alcoholic and risky particular person” and alleged that after an evening of beer consuming and vandalizing mailboxes, Berry picked up Byrd to conduct a steroids deal.
Berry then drove King and Brewer house, the place they gave him a cooler of beer and a bottle of bourbon, King claimed. Berry left with Byrd, and King went to mattress, he wrote.
“That of which can have occurred afterwards, I can not justifiably say,” King wrote earlier than pointing to Berry because the probably killer. “Russell Brewer and myself are being stereotyped and persecuted resulting from our variations in look, felony histories, and the delight we brazenly specific for our race.”
At his trial, Brewer testified that he had been solely a bystander and that King and Berry had perpetrated the homicide.
“I did not imply to trigger his dying,” Brewer tearfully testified. “I had no intentions of killing anyone.”
Jasper County District Lawyer Man James Grey informed the jury, nonetheless, “It is a scenario the place if you happen to do not give the dying penalty to this man, he’ll kill once more.”
King is scheduled to be executed Wednesday at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) at Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. He would be the third prisoner executed in Texas this yr, after cop killer Robert Mitchell Jennings and triple assassin Billie Wayne Coble.