HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The man who masterminded one of the most infamous crimes in Southeast Texas faces execution today in Huntsville.
John William King is scheduled for lethal injection in the June 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr. At some point today King will be brought to the death chamber at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit.
King was sentenced to death for chaining Byrd to the back of a truck and dragging his body along a rural road in Jasper County. Prosecutors said Byrd was targeted because he was black.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, the average time an inmate spends on Death Row prior to Execution is 10.87 years. King, 44, has been on death row for two decades. He first arrived on death row in 1999.
The Texas Tribune reports, a last-minute appeal filed by King's attorney argues that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling entitles King to a new trial because his original lawyers didn’t assert his claim of innocence to the jury despite King’s insistence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals narrowly rejected this appeal in a 5-4 ruling Monday, and a petition is now in front of the nation’s high court.
Pending final appeals, King would be the second man executed in the case. Lawrence Russell Brewer was taken to the death chamber in 2011. Shawn Allen Berry received a life sentence.