White supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed Wednesday evening in Texas for the dragging death of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.
Byrd, 49, was murdered by three white men in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998 after he accepted a ride home from them. Instead of taking Byrd home, the men took him to a remote county road outside of town, where they beat him unconscious, urinated on him and chained him by the ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him three miles to his death.
Brewer later claimed that Byrd's throat had been slashed by one of the other men, Shawn Berry, before he was dragged. However, forensic evidence suggests that Byrd had been attempting to keep his head up while being dragged, and an autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive during much of the dragging. Byrd died after his right arm and head were severed after his body hit a culvert.
Berry, Brewer, and John King dumped Byrd's mutilated remains in front of an African-American cemetery on Huff Creek Road; the three men then went to a barbecue. Along the area where Byrd was dragged, authorities found a wrench with Berry written on it.
All three were tried and convicted for Byrd's murder, with Brewer and King receiving the death penalty, while Berry was sentenced to life in prison.
When asked if he had any final words before his execution, Brewer, 44, said, No. I have no final statement.
He was pronounced dead at 6.21 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal injection.
A psychiatrist testified that Brewer didn't appear repentant for his crimes. The day before his execution, Brewer told a Houston news station, As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. No, I'd do it all over again, to tell you the truth.
Brewer, prior to Byrd's murder, had served a prison sentence for drug possession and burglary. He was paroled in 1991. After violating his parole conditions in 1994, Brewer was returned to prison.
According to his court testimony, he joined a white supremacist gang with King in prison to safeguard himself from other inmates. Brewer and King became friends in the Beto Unit prison.
Byrd's murder was strongly condemned by Jesse Jackson and the Martin Luther King Center as an act of vicious racism and focused national attention on the prevalence of white supremacist prison gangs.
George W. Bush faced criticism from advocacy groups, as governor of Texas, for opposing tougher hate crime legislation.
Hopefully, today's execution of Brewer can remind all of us that racial hatred and prejudice leads to terrible consequence for the victim, the victim's family, for the perpetrator and for the perpetrator's family, said one of Byrd's sisters, Clara Taylor.
She called the punishment a step in the right direction.