Last night, April 24, 2019, the State of Texas executed John William King after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request for a stay. He was put to death for his role in the racially-motivated dragging death of James Byrd, Jr. in 1998. Earlier in the week, a divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied King’s application for a writ of habeas corpus and motion for a stay of execution based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McCoy v. Louisiana in 2018. Read coverage from the Texas Tribune.
King, along with two other men, Shawn Berry and Lawrence Russell Brewer, was convicted of chaining Byrd by his ankles to the bumper of a pickup truck and fatally dragging him three miles on the outskirts of Jasper in East Texas. He was sentenced to death in 1999. Ten years later, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in response to Byrd’s murder.
Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence; Lawrence Brewer was executed in 2011.
King is the third person executed by the State of Texas in 2019 and the fourth nationwide. There currently are three executions scheduled to take place in the next five months, including a May 2 date for Dexter Johnson.