Racist executed over gruesome murder of black man

A self-confessed racist behind one of the most gruesome hate crimes in US history has been executed in the US state of Texas.

John William King was executed by lethal injection for the dragging death of James Byrd Jr, who was chained to the back of a truck and dragged for nearly five kilometres along a secluded road near Jasper, Texas, in 1998.

Byrd, 49, who prosecutors say was targeted because he was black, was alive for at least three kilometres before his body was ripped to pieces.

King, 44, was put to death at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, on Thursday.

John William King was executed over the death of James Byrd Jr. Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

He was the second man executed for Byrd’s killing. Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in 2011 and the third participant, Shawn Allen Berry, was sentenced to life in prison.

King, who was openly racist and had offensive tattoos on his body, including one of a black man with a noose around his neck hanging from a tree, kept his eyes closed as witnesses arrived in the death chamber and never turned his head toward relatives of his victim.

Asked by Warden Bill Lewis if he had a final statement, King replied: “No.”

In a statement released after his execution, he said: “Capital punishment: them without the capital get the punishment.”

King was the fourth inmate executed this year in the US and the third in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.

James Byrd Jr was dragged nearly five kilometres down a secluded road. Source: Reuters

Byrd’s sister, Clara Taylor, who watched her brother’s killer die, said he “showed no remorse then and showed no remorse tonight”.

“The execution for his crime was just punishment,” she said.

“I felt nothing — no sense of relief, no sense of happy this is over with.”

King’s lawyers had tried to stop his execution, arguing his constitutional rights were violated because his trial lawyers did not present his claims of innocence and conceded his guilt but the US Supreme Court rejected the 11th-hour appeal.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles also turned down King’s request for either a commutation of his sentence or a 120-day reprieve.

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