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1999 SPECIAL REPORT: "KILLING TIME"

James Byrd Jr. (May 2, 1949 – June 7, 1998) was a black man who was murdered by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998. Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John William King dragged Byrd for three miles behind a pick-up truck along an asphalt road. Byrd, who remained conscious throughout most of his ordeal, was killed about halfway through the dragging when his body hit the edge of a culvert, severing his right arm and head. The murderers drove on for another mile and a half (2.4 km) before dumping his torso in front of a black cemetery in Jasper. Byrd's lynching-by-dragging gave impetus to passage of a Texas hate-crimes law. It later led to the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, commonly known as the Matthew Shepard Act, which passed on October 22, 2009, and which President Barack Obama signed into law on October 28, 2009.

No clear motive for the crime has been named. King, who prior to the murder of Byrd, had recently been released from a Texas prison, has claimed that he had been repeatedly gang-raped in prison by black inmates. Berry and Brewer had also spent prior time in prison.

Brewer was executed by lethal injection for this crime by the state of Texas on September 21, 2011. King remains on death row with an execution date of April 24, 2019. Berry was sentenced to life imprisonment and will be eligible for parole in 2038.


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