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John William King executed for 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr.

He orchestrated what many have described as one of the most heinous hate crimes in the last 25 years.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — An avowed racist who orchestrated one of the most gruesome hate crimes in U.S. history has been executed in Texas for the dragging death of a black man.

John William King, who was white, received lethal injection Wednesday evening for the 1998 slaying of James Byrd Jr., who was chained to the back of a truck and dragged along a road outside Jasper, Texas.

Prosecutors said Byrd was targeted because he was black.

The 44-year-old King was put to death at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas.

The hate crime put a national spotlight on Jasper, a town of about 7,600 residents near the Texas-Louisiana border that was branded with a racist stigma it has tried to shake off ever since.

King was the second man executed for Byrd's killing. A third man was sentenced to life in prison.

- The Associated Press

Original story 

The man said to be the ringleader of three white men who brutally killed a Jasper, Texas, man in what many describe as one of the most heinous hate crimes in the last 25 years is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Wednesday evening after 6 p.m.

John William King, 44, was convicted in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd, Jr., of Jasper, along with Lawrence Russell Brewer and Shawn Berry.

Brewer was executed in 2011 and Berry is currently serving a life sentence for the crime.

MORE | King's Application to the Supreme Court for stay of execution

MORE | King's death warrant signed December 2018 

According to a document from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the execution would be carried out with a "single drug protocol of Pentobarbital."  

After the execution, King will be buried in Huntsville according to the TDCJ.

4 p.m. --

A Beaumont film maker has been at the Huntsville Unit all day awaiting the execution of King.

Ricky Jason told members of the news media that while he is against the death penalty he does want to see King executed today for what he described as a modern-day lynching.

Jason, who created a documentary about Byrd's death, also had a letter he said he received several years ago from King.

In the letter King decribed himself as an "unrepentant racist supremacist" and claimed he was not there when Byrd was killed Jason told several members of the media.

He said he was waiting to see Byrd's son, Ross, to show him the letter which he said he had been advised by several not to show the Byrd family until King was executed.

3:20 – Update from TDCJ Director of Communication…

Texas Department of Criminal Justice Director of Communications Jeremy Desel told 12News Wednesday afternoon that he met with King in the holding cell just feet away from the death chamber.

Desel described the walk King would take from the holding cell where he is now at to the actual death chamber as very short and nothing like what we’ve seen in the movies.

The walk from the cell to the death chamber is about 10 feet and most walk the four of five steps on their own and get on the gurney in the death chamber by themselves Desel told 12News.

King’s attitude was “non-descript” according to Desel who said that King did not have much to say and did not show any real emotion.

“He listened more to what we had to say,” Desel reported.

There was no talk of remorse or King’s crime whatsoever Desel told 12News.

The conversation was very technical about how and if he would make a final statement as well as “procedural things” such as accessing a phone to make calls to people on a pre-approved list according to Desel.

While King is able to make calls at tis time Desel said he was unsure if had called anyone.

Desel said King did not request a clergy member.

King’s final meals for the day would be whatever the inmates currently in the Huntsville Unit are all eating on Wednesday with no special requests he said.

This has been TDCJ policy in the last few years Desel said.

Two sisters of James Byrd, Jr., and a niece are listed as witnesses but Desel told 12News previously that he is not sure if they will be there.

All of the witness will not enter the viewing area until right before the “procedure” Desel said.

The TDCJ will be in constant contact with the Texas Governor and the Texas Attorney General as well as the U.S. Supreme Court where King has one final option active according to Desel.

 2:30 p.m. -- TDCJ releases media packet…

A witness list released by the state showed 29 witnesses listed who may be attending King’s scheduled execution including three of Byrd’s family and five members of the news media.

No personal witnesses were listed for King according to the list.

The list also included 21 Texas Department of Criminal Justice, law enforcement officials, chaplains and victim’s services representatives.

The inclusion of someone’s name on the list does not guarantee they will attend the execution according to Jeremy Desel, director of communications for TDCJ.

King spent what the early morning hours of what could be his last life day alive on his bunk just after midnight and by 3:30 a.m he was seen looking through papers on the floor of his cell according to a “death watch” document released Wednesday afternoon by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

An hour later he was reported to be “cleaning.”

He spent the next few hours on his bunk and then took a shower according to the document.

By 6:30 a.m. King was in the day room talking with someone and he left for visitation at with friends at 8:11 a.m. according to the document.

The last entry on the “death watch” reported that at 11:28 a.m. King was “visiting with friends.”

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