NEW: Lawrence Brewer executed in Texas at 7:21 p.m. ET
Brewer was sentenced to die by lethal injection for killing James Byrd
Byrd was chained to a truck and dragged to death
A prosecutor described Brewer as a racist psychopath
Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in Texas Wednesday evening for his involvement in the infamous dragging death of a black man 13 years ago.
Brewer, 44, was one of three men convicted for involvement in the murder of James Byrd.
He was executed by lethal injection at 6:21 p.m. local time (7:21 p.m. ET) Wednesday , according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Brewer ate a huge final meal, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. It consisted of chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet, a bowl of fried okra, barbeque, fajitas, pizza, and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts.
After the meal, Brewer was given time to make phone calls to family and friends.
Brewer and two other white men kidnapped the 49-year-old black man on the night of June 7, 1998. They chained him by the ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him for 3 ½ miles down a country road near Jasper, Texas. Byrd died when he was decapitated after he hit a culvert.
Prosecutors said the crime, which they described it as one of the most vicious hate crimes in U.S. history, was intended to promote Brewer’s fledgling white supremacist organization. During his 1999 trial, they called Brewer a racist psychopath.
Brewer was a former “Exalted Cyclops” of a racist prison gang affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan. He spent most of his adult life in prison for burglary, cocaine possession and parole violations.
During the trial, Brewer took the witness stand and contended that he was a bystander, not a killer.
He tearfully admitted being present when Byrd was dragged to his death but, he said, “I didn’t mean to cause his death. I had no intentions of killing anybody.”
Brewer said accomplice John William King initiated the killing by fighting with Byrd. He also said the third defendant, Shawn Berry, slashed Byrd’s throat and then chained him to Berry’s pickup. Brewer admitted kicking Byrd and spraying Byrd’s face with black paint.
But he said it was a reflex action taken to try to break up the fight between Byrd and King.
When Brewer was sentenced to death in 1999, Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray said that, 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.
To impose the death penalty, the jurors in Brewer’s trial had to answer three questions under Texas law:
– Would Brewer be a threat to society in the future;
– Did Brewer mean to kill Byrd;
– And, were there mitigating circumstances that would warrant sparing Brewer’s life?
To sentence Brewer to death, the jurors voted unanimously on each question – answering the first two yes and the last no.
The execution was the 11th this year in Texas, the most active death-penalty state.
King also was sentenced to death and is awaiting the outcome of an appeal. The third man, Berry, was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law expanded hate crime legislation that was named after Byrd and Mathew Shepard, a gay Wyoming man who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998.
CNN’s Nick Valencia contributed to this story