HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Three of James Byrd, Jr.'s family traveled to Huntsville Wednesday to bear witness to the execution of the man convicted of dragging him to death along an East Texas country road in 1998.
Byrd's sisters Clara Taylor, Louvon Harris as well as his niece Tiffany Taylor witnessed the execution.
After King was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m. central time the woman walked out of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Huntsville Unit and faced a throng of television cameras.
King was convicted along with Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed in 2011 and Shawn Berry, who is serving a life sentence, for horrific crime in Jasper, Texas.
Clara Taylor, flanked by Harris and Tiffany Taylor, read a prepared statement from the family before answering a few questions.
Here is the full text of her statement…
"Today we witnessed the peaceful and dignified execution of John King for the savage, brutal and inhumane murder of James on June 7, 1998 -- really a modern-day lynching.
King, who was the ringleader of the three, had a deeply ingrained hatred of blacks as evidenced by his actions, tattoos and hate-filled rhetoric. He wanted to make a name for himself and his organization by killing a black man.
James was chosen as his target. James was shown no mercy as they dragged him while alive behind a pickup truck using a 25-foot logging chain. His body was slung from side to side like a sack of potatoes until he was decapitated.
King showed no remorse then as well as tonight. His execution tonight was just punishment for his actions.
“The outcry of support and rage from around the world indicated that James’ death did make a difference, not just to us, his family, but to others of various races. We are grateful for the full support of the judicial system on all levels -- local, state and federal -- that led to speedy arrests, trials and convictions of all three perpetrators.
Tonight, after almost 21 years on death row, the death sentence was finally carried out.
“James would have been 70 this year. He was deprived of so many priceless memories, such as watching his three children grow up and become productive citizens. He has four grandchildren and his oldest granddaughter will soon graduate from college.
“James’ legacy continues to be one of peace and nonviolence. As a result of James’ death, laws have been passed to recognize hate crimes and to prosecute accordingly.
But laws cannot change the heart of man. We continue to look to God for a permanent solution, but meanwhile encourage everyone to continue to get to know one another on a personal level (especially those of a different race or ethnic group).
“We believe that open dialogue is one of the keys to overcoming racial prejudice which if left unchecked often can lead to racial hatred and acts of violence."