Thursday 19 September 2019

White supremacist executed after 20 years on death row

John William King decorated his body in racist tattoos. Photo: AP
John William King decorated his body in racist tattoos. Photo: AP

Harriet Alexander

The first white man in Texas to be convicted of the murder of a black man has been executed, after 20 years on death row.

John William King (44), a self-confessed white supremacist, was put to death in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville with a fatal dose of pentobarbital.

He declined to give any last words but prepared a statement in advance, saying: "Capital punishment: them without the capital get the punishment."

King, an ex-convict who had decorated his body in racist tattoos - including one of a black man hanging in a noose - was convicted of the murder of 49-year-old James Byrd Jr in the town of Jasper, Texas.

King and two other white men attacked Byrd early one Sunday morning in 1998 after offering him a lift home.

They beat him, spray-painted his face, chained him to the back of a pick-up truck and dragged him to his death on a back road.

Louvon Harris, a sister of Mr Byrd's who planned to attend Wednesday's execution, said King's death 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, or nothing like that. When you look at it at that angle, I don't have sympathy."

Less than a year after the killing, King became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person. One of his accomplices, Lawrence Russell Brewer, was condemned after him and executed in 2011.

Shawn Allen Berry, the third killer, was spared the death penalty but is not up for parole until 2038.

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