John William King was executed by the state of Texas by lethal injection at 6:40 pm this evening. He was pronounced dead at 7:08 pm.
King was the second perpetrator executed by Texas for their involvement in the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. outside Jasper, Texas. King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry, all white, offered a ride to Byrd, a black man on June 7, 1998. Instead of taking Byrd home, the three men took Byrd to a remote country road out of town where they beat him severely, urinated and defecated on him, and chained him by his ankles to their pickup truck before dragging him for about 3 miles. The autopsy would later suggest that Byrd would be alive for at least half of the 3 miles, up to the point where his right arm and head were severed when his body hit a culvert. Berry, Brewer, and King dumped the mutilated remains of the body in front of an African-American church on Huff Creek Road and then drove off to a barbecue. The police would later find 81 places that were littered with Byrd's remains.
The murder was deemed a "hate crime," though Texas had no specific provision for this type of crime. King had several racist tattoos including a black man hanging from a tree, Nazi symbols, the words "Aryan Pride," and the patch for the Confederate Knights of America. King was proud of the crime and would write "Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!" Even at his execution, he made no final statement, he showed no remorse. He simply closed his eyes and refused to acknowledge the family of the victim.
For their involvement, Brewer and King each received the death penalty and Berry was sentenced to life in prison. Brewer was previously executed on September 21, 2011. The murder and trial led to the passage of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in Texas in 2001, and the national Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.
This was the hate crime that hit too close to home. Jasper is a little over thirty miles from where I grew up. The events of the murder, investigation, and trial all unfolded in the summer immediately following my graduation. We knew the sheriff investigating and I had a teacher who served on the jury.
The events weighed all over our area in the ensuing months, particularly to show that these events did not reflect the general populace. That they reflected the sick and twisted minds of only a small sliver of us.
They still serve as a sobering reminder of what we have to fight. Especially as it seems that hate is on the rise. We can see it all around us. Especially on social media.
Islamophobia is on the rise. New flare ups seem to have occurred in apparent response to prominent Muslim Congresswomen.
Anti-semitism is on the rise.
Transphobia is on the rise, with an increase in violence against transgender people.
White nationalism is on the rise.
Hate crimes in general are on the rise, for the third consecutive year.
How have we come this far and still have these aspects of the worst of us increasing?
Why do we allow leadership that seems to turn a blind eye to it at best or to incite it at worst?
When is enough enough?
Judgment was served tonight, but we still have a long way to go for justice.