A white supremacist was executed Wednesday in Texas for killing a black man 20 years ago during a torture session, compared to a “modern day lynching” that had driven America back.
With no last-minute stay of the Supreme Court, 44-year-old John King was shot dead at 7:08 pm in Huntsville Penitentiary.
The man, who displayed racist ideas and Nazi tattoos, was sentenced to death in 1999 for participating with two other whites in the murder of James Byrd.
On the night of June 7, 1998, they claimed to want to accompany this 49-year-old black man who was walking home after a party.
The three men had in fact violently beaten him, then chained him to the back of their van and dragged him over three kilometers.
His dismembered body was found the next morning in front of a black church in the small town of Jasper, Texas.
In less than 48 hours, police arrested the perpetrators of the crime: Shawn Berry, 23, John King, 23, and Lawrence Brewer, 31.
The last two, who had joined a gang of white supremacists while in prison, were sentenced to death in separate trials. Lawrence Brewer was executed in 2011.
Shawn Berry, who cooperated with the investigators, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
KKK and SS
At John King’s 1999 trial, members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Black Panthers demonstrated in Jasper, plunging the United States back into the dark hours of their history.
The father of the accused had, however, appealed for racial reconciliation. “We are all human beings, black and white (…) We must learn to love ourselves, not to hate each other,” Ronald King had urged.
Ten years later, a law in the name of James Byrd, but also Matthew Shepard, a young gay man beaten to death the same year in Wyoming, was passed at the federal level to strengthen the fight against racially motivated crimes, homophobia or other targeted hatred.
For his part, John King has always maintained an ambiguous attitude.
In a letter to a local newspaper, he had claimed his innocence and assured that he had not been to the crime scene.
Without explaining the cigarette butts found with his DNA or other evidence, he added that he was “persecuted” for “openly expressing” his “pride for his race”.
At the hearing, he had not spoken, leaving his lawyers to blame the Texas prison system for its radicalization.
According to them, the young man was raped by black detainees and then placed under the protection of an extremist gang, hence his tattoos referring to Nazi SS, KKK or “Aryan pride”. .
Not convinced, the jury took less than three hours to sentence him to death.
Since then, his lawyers have multiplied the remedies to try to save him.
On Tuesday, they filed an ultimate petition – ultimately dismissed – with the US Supreme Court to suspend execution. According to them, the first lawyers of John King violated the rights of their client by not pleading innocence, as he had asked them.
Already solicited with this argument, the temple of American law had refused in 2018 to seize the file.
John King became the fourth inmate executed in 2019 in the United States.
Some relatives of his victim, however, opposed his execution, recalled the CNN . In 2011, during the execution of Lawrence Brewer, James Byrd’s son, Ross, protested: “You can not fight a crime with a crime.”
But three of his sisters planned to attend the execution. “It will not cure us,” said one of them, Louven Harris, at The New York Times . “But justice will have been done.”