Testimony over in dragging death trial
Closing arguments tomorrow
February 22, 1999
Web posted at: 3:17 p.m. EST (2017 GMT)
JASPER, Texas (CNN) -- The defense rested its case Monday
in the trial of a white supremacist accused of dragging a black man to death, just hours after the prosecution wrapped up its presentation.
Attorney C. Haden "Sonny" Cribbs called only three
witnesses before concluding his defense of John William King,
charged with capital murder in the June 7, 1998 killing of James Byrd, Jr.
State District Judge Joe Bob Golden set closing arguments for
Tuesday at 10 a.m. (11 a.m. EST).
Earlier Monday, the prosecution rested following testimony that victim Byrd tried in vain to save himself as he was dragged over a dirt logging trail and paved road while chained behind a pickup truck.
Though suffering horribly, Byrd remained alive until he was decapitated, according to Dr. Thomas Brown, a forensic pathologist.
"It was my opinion, Mr. Byrd was alive up to the point he hit the culvert," Brown testified after a lengthy description of wounds suffered by the 49-year-old black man on June 7.
"He was alive when the head, shoulder and right arm were separated," the witness said. "The lethal wound occurred at this time."
The culvert, a roadside ditch, was about halfway through the 3-mile path of the dragging.
The testimony of Brown of John William King is important because prosecutors, in order to seek a death penalty against the alleged white supremacist, must show Byrd's murder also occurred in conjunction with another crime. In this case, it would be kidnapping.
"That proves our kidnapping," Jasper County Assistant District Attorney Pat Hardy told reporters outside the courtroom. "We owed this to the public, to the country and to the world to put on everything we had, and that's what we've done."
Defendant's father leaves courtroom
King's father, Ronald, left the courtroom as Brown was about to begin his testimony Monday. Byrd's mother, Stella, was not present.
Other family members wiped away tears as the pathologist spoke.
The prosecution showed a videotape, shot from the window of a moving vehicle, showing red circles in the road where parts of Byrd's body, dentures and other belongings were recovered.
The videotape began on the dirt logging trail where authorities say Byrd was severely beaten by his three abductors and ended at a cemetery where they dumped his torso.
An outline of the body could be seen there.
In his graphic testimony, Brown said the different colors of blood -- reddish-brown before death and yellow-brown after death -- show when wounds occurred.
King sat expressionless during the pathologist's testimony, his chin resting on his left hand.
Jurors were given individual booklets with photos of Byrd's mangled body to help them follow Brown's descriptions. One juror briefly put her hand over her mouth as she looked at the photos.
In other testimony on Monday, a police detective said King, an ex-convict, wrote racist graffiti on the door of his jail cell. He said King also inscribed on the door: "Shawn Berry is a snitch-ass traitor."
Berry, who also faces a murder trial in the Byrd killing, gave an affidavit when he was arrested that led to the arrests of King and the third defendant, Lawrence Brewer.
And King, in a jailhouse letter to Brewer, also expressed pride in the crime and said he realized he might have to die for it.
"Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history," King said in a letter intercepted by jail officials.
Correspondent Susan Candiotti and Reuters contributed to this report.
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