HUNTSVILLE, Texas (FOX 26) — A man who was involved in one of the most horrific hate crimes in our nation’s modern day history is set to be executed on Wednesday. John William King will be the second person put to death for the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas.
It’s almost 21 years since James Byrd Jr. was brutally murdered, dragged by chains that were attached to a pickup truck. The reason why is because Byrd was black, and his killers were known white supremacists. John William King’s execution is sure to re-open the wounds for the Byrd family, and the people of Jasper, Texas.
It all started back on June 7, 1998 when the remains of 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. were found. He was beaten, had his ankles tied to the back of a pickup truck and was driven almost three miles-- A gruesome crime that shocked the world, and showed the evil face of racism.
Carla Taylor, James Byrd’s Sister, told FOX 26 back in 1999, “the death of James has left a mark on our lives that can never ever be a racist. It’s an indelible mark.“
Three men were charged with Byrd’s murder-- Shawn Allen Berry, who is serving life in prison; Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed back in 2011; and John William King, who will meet the same fate as Brewer.
Mylinda Washington, another sister of Byrd’s, said to us back in 1999 that, “I can just think about his cries for mercy, his pleas, and nobody heard him answer them it was a joke they enjoyed it.”
Wretha Thomas is a Jasper native and a former classmate of James Byrd Jr’s. FOX 26 was able to dig up an old home movie of James playing a piano and singing. Thomas got emotional watching the footage of her friend.
Thomas says the act committed by those three men have cast a dark cloud over Jasper, and is hoping King’s execution will start the healing process. However, Shawn Berry is eligible for parole in 2038. I asked her how she feels about that.
“The cloak is just as bad as the dagger, you know, he needs to stay in prison," she said.
King’s execution is set for 6 p.m, Wednesday, At the same time in Jasper, James Byrd Jr.’s family will be holding a prayer vigil at a park named after him.