February 25th 1999: John King sentenced to death for the murder of James Byrd
No one would have thought that the race demeaning tattoos on the body of John King could amount to anything more than trying to make a statement. There was a tattoo of a black man hanging from a tree, Nazi symbols, and the words “Aryan Pride” sprawled on his body.
But on June 7th 1998, when John and his friends -Shawn, Lawrence- offered a ride to forty-nine year old black man, James Byrd, and they had instead of taking him home beat him to a pulp, tied him to their pick up truck with a chain around his waist, stripped him naked and dragged him for three miles till he died. It became clear to everyone that John King was intent on doing a lot more than making a statement.
He would claim sometime during his trial that he had been raped by black men during his stay in prison as though to justify killing James. He would not want to be questioned on why someone who grew up with blacks, who went to a black school could be so much of a supremacist.
Police will later find Byrd’s mutilated body at the black cemetery, and will pick up 75 pieces of his limbs scattered across a rarely used road in Jasper, Texas and John would boast in an intercepted letter to Lawrence about the killing.
Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil
On the 25th of February 1999, John was sentenced to death by the lethal injection for the gruesome murder of James Byrd Jr. His counterpart Lawrence was equally sentenced to death and Shawn received a life sentence.
Nevertheless, till date John King remains on death row while appeals are still pending. Lawrence was however killed on September 21st 2011.
If King’s death penalty is carried out, he will be the first white Texan executed for killing a black since slavery ended.