• Man convicted in Texas hate crime murder to be executed Wednesday

    By: Ann Smajstrla, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:
    HUNTSVILLE, Texas -

    A convicted killer is set to be executed for his role in the 1998 dragging death of a black man in Texas, which CNN reported is considered one of the worst hate crimes in modern American history.

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    John William King, 44, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday, barring a last-minute stay. He is one of three men convicted of capital murder for chaining 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. to the back of a pickup truck and dragging him to his death, The Beaumont Enterprise reported.

    Byrd’s killing, committed in the small, east Texas town of Jasper, “shocked the world” with its viciousness, CNN reported. NBA player Dennis Rodman attended Byrd’s funeral, and artists including Geto Boys, Drive-By Truckers and Will Smith referenced Byrd in their songs.

    Byrd’s death was one of two cases that inspired The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

    King is considered by investigators to have been the “ringleader” in Byrd’s killing, Sheriff Billy Rowles told KFDM-TV.

    King, Lawrence Russell Brewer and Shawn Berry are accused of picking up Byrd, saying they would give him a ride home, CNN reported. However, the men drove Byrd to a secluded area, where they beat him and spray-painted his face, police said. The men then chained Byrd to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him until he died, according to police.

    Rowles described King as a racist who bragged about the killing. King, however, has maintained his innocence.

    "He has absolutely no remorse right now," Rowles said. "He's still saying he wasn't there."

    Brewer was executed in 2011, and Berry is serving a life sentence.

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