Brewer sentenced to die for part in Byrd dragging death
September 23, 1999
BRYAN, Texas (CNN) -- Convicted killer Lawrence Russell Brewer was sentenced Thursday to die by lethal injection for his role in dragging a black man to death behind a pickup truck.
It took a jury less than 14 hours to decide Brewer's punishment for participating in the 1998 murder of James Byrd Junior in Jasper, Texas.
Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray, said while he did not personally favor the death penalty, it was necessary in Brewer's case.
"This is a situation where if you don't give the death penalty to this man, he will kill again," said Gray.
After the sentence was handed down by Judge Monte Lawlis, defense attorney Doug Barlow said, "Russell has resigned himself to this."
The defense team will appeal.
Brewer, 32, a former Exhalted Cyclops of a racist prison gang affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, who has spent most of his adult life in prison for burglary, cocaine possession and parole violations, was convicted of capital murder Monday for his role in the attack on Byrd.
Byrd was beaten, chained by his ankles and dragged for three miles along a logging road outside Jasper in June last year. Byrd was decapitated when he hit a culvert.
Byrd was black; all three of his accused killers are white.
Members of Byrd's family hugged prosecutors after the sentencing. They said they were concerned by the length of the deliberations, particularly when the jury of 11 whites and one Hispanic sent a note to the judge saying it was deadlocked on whether Brewer deserved mercy.
"It was a fair case, it was a just sentence," said Mary Verrett, Byrd's sister, "and we are very elated about the outcome."
Brewer is the second man to be convicted and sentenced to death in Byrd's murder. John William King has been on death row since February.
A third suspect, Shawn Allen Berry, 24, is slated to go on trial in late October.
Prosecutors said Berry chained Byrd to the bumper of the truck and dragged him, but Berry does not have the racist background of Brewer and King. For that reason, prosecutors believe it will be more difficult to get a death-penalty conviction against Berry in the third and final trial.
Attorneys argue punishment for second defendant in Texas dragging death case
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