February 17, 1999
Web posted at: 9:09 a.m. EST (1409 GMT)
James Byrd Jr., 49, was beaten, stripped nude and chained to the back
of a pickup on June 7, 1998, authorities say. He was dragged for three miles
on a rural blacktop road as his body was ripped to pieces.
His head and shoulders were torn off. They were found about a
mile from the rest of his torso.
Only John William King, a 24-year-old resident of Jasper,
Texas, is currently on trial for murder. He pleaded not
guilty. Two other men accused of the same crime, Lawrence
Russell Brewer, 31, of Sulphur Springs, Texas, and Shawn
Allen Berry, 23, of Jasper, face trial in the future.
King and Brewer once shared a prison cell and both belonged
to a small racist prison gang. King was serving time for
burglary; Brewer was jailed on a drug sentence.
King and Berry have been friends since high school.
The three men were roommates when the crime occurred.
King has several racist tattoos. They depict the lynching of
a black man hanging from a tree, Nazi swastikas and a Woody
Woodpecker cartoon character wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and
If convicted of capital murder, all three men face life in
prison or death by lethal injection.
The 12-member jury consists of six white men, one black man
and five white women. Jasper County, from which the jurors
were drawn, is 18 percent black.
The trial is being held in Jasper, Texas, a town of about
8,000 people located in eastern Texas, about 100 miles
northeast of Houston.