HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused a last-day appeal from condemned Texas inmate John William King, clearing the way for his execution for the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. nearly 21 years ago.
John William King is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening for orchestrating one of the most gruesome hate crimes in U.S. history.
Prosecutors say the 44-year-old King and two other white men chained Byrd to the back of a truck and dragged his body along a secluded road outside Jasper, Texas, in June 1998.
Prosecutors said Byrd was targeted because he was black.
UPDATE: The US Supreme Court denies the stay of execution request from John William King. There were no notable dissents in this specific case. King will be executed shortly.
UPDATE: John William King has filed a response brief in support of his seeking an execution stay at the US Supreme Court. Read his filed brief below:
UPDATE: Texas has filed an opposition brief at the US Supreme Court against King’s request for a stay of execution. Read their filed brief below:
UPDATE: John William King has filed a petition for certiorari at the US Supreme Court, seeking a stay of execution in his death penalty case. Read the petition filed at the US Supreme Court below:
Live updates on the execution below:
Our previous report:
The dragging death of James Byrd Jr. was one of the most gruesome hate crimes in recent memory; rightfully referred to as a “modern-day lynching.” Picked up by the side of the road by three white men in the early morning hours of June 7, 1998, the 49-year-old black man was beaten and his face spray-painted; a logging chain was then tied around his ankles. He was dragged behind a pickup truck for almost 3 miles before parts of his body were displayed in front of a church outside Jasper, Texas.
Now, one of the three men involved in Byrd’s killing, John William King, is set to be executed on Wednesday, barring a last-minute stay of execution, CNN reports. If the death penalty is carried out, King will be the second person Texas has executed in Byrd’s death: Lawrence Russell Brewer died by lethal injection in 2011. The third participant, Shawn Allen Berry, was sentenced to life in prison after cooperating with the investigation.
But Byrd’s own relatives have spoken out against executing their loved one’s killers, according to earlier CNN reports:
Byrd’s sister, Betty Boatner, told CNN in 2011, after Brewer’s execution, that she “forgave him 13 years ago.” His son, Ross, joined protests decrying Brewer’s execution, saying, “You can’t fight murder with murder.” Ross’ sister, Renee Mullins, said after Brewer’s execution that she preferred a life sentence for her dad’s killer.
“I don’t feel justice was served,” she told CNN. “Lawrence Brewer was just given an option to take some drugs in his arm and go to sleep. My father wasn’t given that option. He was brutally tortured for 3 miles, until he was dismembered.”
King, a white supremacist whose history of racism is well-documented, has maintained his innocence, repeatedly appealing his guilty verdict. But cigarette butts found at the scene of Byrd’s beating contained King’s DNA; police also found lighters engraved with the words “KKK” and “Possum.”
“Possum” was King’s nickname.
There has been no dispute about King’s belief in white supremacy. From CNN:
Though the motive was never specifically outlined, race was a theme in King’s trial. Prosecutors presented evidence that King had been an “exalted cyclops” of the white supremacist Confederate Knights of America and regularly drew lynching scenes.
His tattoos included a burning cross, the double lightning bolt insignia of Adolf Hitler’s paramilitary Schutzstaffel, a robed Ku Klux Klansman, a swastika, the words “Aryan Pride” and a black man hanging from a tree.
Gang experts testified King was recruiting others to his cause — an all-out race war — and that leaving Byrd’s body in front of the church, rather than obscuring it, “demonstrated that the crime was meant to spread terror.”
A note presented at King’s trial intended for Brewer, who was in the jail at the time, showed he had no remorse about his role in Byrd’s brutal murder.
“Seriously, though, Bro, regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history and shall die proudly remembered if need be,” King wrote.
He signed off: “Much Aryan love…Possum.”
King’s execution is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 pm ET at Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. According to the Associated Press, King will be the third person executed in the state of Texas this year.
(Reporting by The Root)
Here’s all the documents essential to King’s execution proceedings (These will be updated when necessary).
This post will be updated when new information is available.
August Execution Set For Florida Killer Who Targeted Gay Men
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A convicted killer in Florida who authorities say targeted gay men is scheduled to be executed later this summer.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a death warrant Tuesday for 57-year-old Gary Ray Bowles. The execution is set for Aug. 22 at Florida State Prison.
Records show Bowles was convicted of three murders and sentenced to death for the 1994 slaying of Walter Hinton.
Authorities say Bowles agreed to help Hinton move items from Georgia to Hinton’s Jacksonville home in November 1994. While staying with Hinton, Bowles dropped a concrete block on the other man’s head and then strangled him.
Police say Bowles confessed to the killing after his arrest and professed hatred for homosexuals. Investigators say Bowles also admitted to killing five other men across Florida, Georgia and Maryland.
Federal Appeals Court Refuses To Block Thursday Execution of Christopher Lee Price
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal appeals court is refusing to block Alabama’s bid to execute an inmate convicted of killing a country preacher with a sword.
The 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals on Wednesday refused a stay requested by 46-year-old Christopher Lee Price. He’s set to die by lethal injection Thursday night.
The court says an earlier Supreme Court decision prevents a delay for Price, who is challenging Alabama’s lethal injection methods.
Price’s attorney, Jonathan Ference-Burke, says they will ask the Supreme Court to review the case. They say there is no reason the state needs to cut off judicial review by rushing to execute him ahead of a trial set for next month about lethal injection in Alabama.
Price was convicted of capital murder in the killing of pastor Bill Lynn, who was slain with a sword and knife in rural Fayette County in 1991.
Bobby Joe Long, Serial Killer Who Terrorized The Tampa Community, Executed
Lisa McVey Noland sat in the front row at the execution, waiting for Bobby Joe Long to look at her.
It had been nearly 35 years since Long kidnapped Noland as she rode her bicycle home from the Krispy Kreme shop, then bound, blindfolded and repeatedly raped her over 26 hours before letting her go.
Noland still doesn’t know why Long spared her in November 1984. He had abducted her at the peak of his eight-month killing rampage that year, as the bodies of 10 young women piled up all across Tampa seemingly without recourse. Tiny red carpet fibers were the evidence linking many of the 10 deaths together, a peculiar element that stumped police for months. But Long’s decision that November night to release the 17-year-old would be the end of it, as Noland soon shared with authorities every detail she could remember about the 26 hours she spent with a serial killer.
And on Thursday, she watched as he lay on the gurney, awaiting lethal injection.
“I wanted to be the first person he saw,” said Noland, now a 52-year-old deputy at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office — the same agency that arrested her rapist.
Long, one of Florida’s most notorious serial killers, died by lethal injection at 6:55 p.m. Thursday after 34 years on death row. After his arrest in 1984, Long, 65, ultimately confessed to killing 10 women and raping dozens of others in the Tampa area between March and November of that year. He often preyed on sex workers and exotic dancers, or women selling furniture through classified ads in the newspaper, earning him the “Classified Ad Rapist” moniker. Of those he killed, all were between the ages of 18 and 28, all last seen while walking alone late at night or after leaving a bar, club or work.
He pleaded guilty to eight of the deaths. For charges including rape, kidnap and murder, he was sentenced to life 33 times and to death once, for the murder of Michelle Simms, a 22-year-old former beauty pageant contestant from California, working as a receptionist at a massage parlor in Fort Pierce, Fla., at the time of her death.
“If I could have had my way, he would have been executed for every person’s life he took,” said Algalana Douglas, sister of victim Chanel Williams, who was fatally shot in October 1984. She was 18.
Back in 1984, it was tiny red carpet fibers from the floor of a car that alerted police that they had a serial killer on their hands, and it was Nolan who led them to him.
It started in the spring of that year, when police found the body of Ngeun Thi “Peggy” Long, a 19-year-old from Southern California who had just quit her job at a Tampa nightclub to go back to college. Two boys walking in a vacant field near an interstate overpass were the first to find her in May, nude and strangled with a rope around her neck.
“Right at the scene we realized we had a problem,” Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Gary Terry told Congress in 1986, explaining how they managed to capture Bobby Joe Long. They decided to take the evidence from the scene to the FBI in Washington, and that’s how authorities detected the fibers that would later become the crucial piece of evidence.
The red fibers, apparently from a carpet, were also found on the next woman’s body. Two weeks later, Simms was found bound by ropes, her throat slashed, again in a field near an overpass. Then came the third body, the fourth and fifth and sixth — with little physical evidence pointing police to a suspect, except for the same red fibers.
But then there was Noland.
She was 17 and working a double shift at the Krispy Kreme on Nov. 3, 1984, the night Long snatched her off her bicycle as she rode past a church parking lot. She had left the doughnut shop around 2 a.m., and she had no plans to return. Noland said she had been molested for three years by her grandmother’s boyfriend and had been planning to end her life. The suicide note she had written the night before was on her mind as she pedaled home, she said at a news conference earlier this month.
But then suddenly, a hand was grabbing her, and the cold tip of a pistol was pressed against her left temple, she said.
She remembers screaming, and then saying, “God, whatever you do, just don’t kill me.”
He dragged her to his car, a red Dodge Magnum. He ordered her to undress, bound her, blindfolded her and drove her back to his apartment. There, for hours, he raped her over and over.
At a certain point, Noland said, she asked him, “Why are you doing this to me?”
He told her: “To get back at women.”
An unemployed X-ray technician and 10th-grade dropout from West Virginia, Long had just came to the end of two bad relationships, as his parents would soon reveal to the St. Petersburg Times in 1984. He and his high school sweetheart were divorced, and then he found out his new girlfriend was seeing another man. His mother, Louella Long, remembered the day her son called and said, “I can’t find any decent girls in the world.” Two months later, the bodies started piling up.
Noland said she zeroed in on his bad experiences with women, trying to seem sympathetic to him, compassionate. She had invented a story about being the sole caretaker of a sick parent, so that he would feel sympathetic for her, the Tampa Bay Times reported. She doesn’t know why he let her go, but she guessed the story helped her case. “It saved my life,” she said of her sympathetic facade.
At 4:30 the next morning, he ordered her back into the car, still blindfolded but now clothed, and dropped her on the curb in her neighborhood. Once she made it home, she told her grandma and her grandma’s boyfriend she was kidnapped. The man thought she was lying. Police believed her, she said.
She started from the beginning, revealing only what she could glimpse by peaking underneath her blindfold. She knew she was inside a red car, the Dodge Magnum she had spotted as she pedaled past it that night. She knew the car had a red carpet, virtually the only thing she could see while tied up in the back seat — and immediately police perked up. Like many of the victims, Noland’s clothes also contained the same tiny red fibers.
But as police combed through registration records for hundreds of Dodge Magnums in the area, two other women, Virginia Lee Johnson, 18, and Kim Marie Swann, 21, would disappear and end up dead within the next few days that November. Police knew it was the work of the same man: The red fibers were there again, the Times reported at the time.
When police staked out the area where Noland believed she had been taken, authorities finally saw the red Dodge Magnum they believed they were looking for, beginning a 36-hour surveillance operation. On Nov. 16, 1984, police arrested Long for Simms’s death as he left a movie theater.
He had no explanation for what he had done.
“It was like A, B, C, D. I’ll pull over. They get in. I’d drive a little way. Stop. Pull out a knife, a gun, whatever. Tie ‘em up. Take ‘em out. And that would be it,” he told CBS News in a pretrial interview in 1986. “And the worst thing is I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why.”
Speaking after his execution Thursday, the families of the victims said the pain had dragged on for three decades, as they waited for Long’s execution. Noland said she wished she could have said something to him. She said she wanted to tell him, “Thank you.” From the time he kidnapped her to when he released her, she said, he had given her a reason to fight for her life, and to potentially save the lives of future victims. She later ripped up the suicide note.
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