An avowed racist who orchestrated one of the most gruesome hate crimes in US history was executed Wednesday in Texas for the dragging death of a black man, the AP reports. John William King, who was white, received lethal injection for the slaying nearly 21 years ago of James Byrd Jr., who was chained to the back of a truck and dragged for nearly 3 miles along a secluded road in the piney woods outside Jasper, Texas. The 49-year-old Byrd was alive for at least 2 miles before his body was ripped to pieces in the early morning hours of June 7, 1998. Prosecutors said Byrd was targeted because he was black. King was openly racist and had offensive tattoos on his body, including one of a black man with a noose around his neck hanging from a tree, according to authorities.
King, 44, was put to death at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. He was the fourth inmate executed this year in the US and the third in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state. The killing of Byrd was a hate crime that 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. Local officials say the reputation is undeserved. King's appellate lawyers had tried to stop his execution, arguing King's constitutional rights were violated because his trial attorneys didn't present his claims of innocence and conceded his guilt. The US Supreme Court rejected King's last-minute appeal.
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