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John King executed for dragging death of James Byrd Jr.

King sought a last-minute stay, asking the US Supreme Court to delay the execution. The court did not intervene.
Credit: KBMT

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — John William King, 44, became the third person to be executed this year in Texas’ death chamber for his role in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. Prosecutors said Byrd was targeted because he was black.

The execution was scheduled to take place 6 p.m. Wednesday.  It was delayed approximately 40 minutes while officials awaited a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices refused King’s last-day appeal, and witnesses were lead in to watch the execution at approximately 6:40 p.m.  He was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m.

King did not give a final oral statement, but did make a written statement. 

The one-line statement said: "Capital punishment, them without the capital get the punishment."

King sought a last-minute stay, asking the US Supreme Court to delay the execution.  The court did not intervene. 

Louvon Harris and Clara Taylor, sisters of Byrd; and Tiffany Taylor, Byrd’s niece, watched on as the state administered a “single drug protocol of pentobarbital” ending King’s life.  Byrd’s mother, Stella Byrd, did not live long enough to see her son’s killer put to death. She died in 2010.

The family of James Byrd Jr. said John King showed no remorse as he closed his eyes and never looked their way. 

“It’s indicative of how deep his hate was," his sister said. 

Two other men were convicted in Byrd’s death.  Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in 2011.  Shawn Allen Berry was sentenced to life in prison.

King will be buried in Huntsville.