HOUSTON— White supremacist gang member Lawrence
Russell Brewer has been executed for the infamous dragging death
of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.
For Byrd's family, walking into a Texas prison to witness an execution was a moment of justice.
“It’s not a happy situation,” said Louvon Harris, one of Byrd’s sisters. “Only good part is part of it is justice has been served.”
They had endured the unspeakable pain of hearing how Byrd suffered during his savage murder, how three young men stoked with racist hatred chained him to a pickup truck and dragged him along a remote road in Jasper County until his body was torn apart.
Now, thirteen years after the crime that stunned the world, they have watched one of his killers die.
Lawrence Brewer, strapped to a gurney inside the Texas death chamber, with needles sticking into his tattooed arms, became the first convicted killer executed for Byrd’s shocking murder.
“It was sad,” said Clara Taylor, another sister who watched the execution. “Your thoughts go back to what it was like for James. At the same time, your thoughts are with Brewer’s family and what they’re going through. And for him, it was a peaceful death. But for James it was dragged out over a long time period, so it was much more horrible.”
Brewer had requested a small banquet of food for his last meal, including two chicken fried steaks smothered in gravy, a triple meat bacon cheeseburger with fixings, a cheese omelet with ground beef and vegetables, a large bowl of fried okra with ketchup, a pound of barbecue with a half loaf of white bread, three fajitas with fixings, a pizza meat lover’s special, three root beers, a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts and a pint of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. But prison officials report he became so busy making last phone calls, he never even touched his last meal.
Brewer’s last public remarks came in an exclusive interview aired earlier this week. He made no final statement before the deadly drugs started flowing into veins shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“He was very pale,” said Mike Graczyk, an Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution. “And his skin by then had started turning kind of a pinkish purple. And there was a tear resting right on the edge of his right eye.”
By 6:21 in the evening, Brewer was dead. His family watched and wept, his father leaning on a walker. They left without saying a word publicly.
The Byrd family members left a short time later, vowing to return someday for one more execution. John William King, a belligerent ex-convict whose rambling white supremacist writings indicated he hoped to trigger a race war, still awaits his execution date.
A third convicted murderer who participated in Byrd’s killing, Shawn Berry, is now serving a life sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report