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Killer of James Byrd, Jr., John William King, asks U.S. Supreme Court to take case

A Texas man awaiting execution in a notorious hate crime is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to save him.

John William King, 44, filed an appeal with the high court on Tuesday, asking the justices to find that a federal appeals court erred in rejecting his case.

King, along with co-defendants Lawrence Russell Brewer and Shawn Berry, were convicted of the dragging death of 49-year-old James Byrd in June 1998.

Brewer was executed in Texas on September 21, 2011. King remains on death row. Berry was sentenced to life in prison.

Byrd died after being dragged behind a truck for three miles on an asphalt road near Jasper, Texas. Investigators said Byrd remained conscious throughout much of the incident and died when his body hit the edge of a culvert, decapitating him and severing his right arm.

Byrd’s death led to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected an appeal from King in February.

The court dismissed all of John King’s arguments about the effectiveness of his attorneys at trial and for not doing more to downplay his ties to racists groups and statements.

In the appeal, John King criticized his attorneys for not pushing the theory that his tattoos were merely a way of adapting and surviving in prison, not signs of racial animus.

A three-judge panel noted that King was part of a white supremacist prison gang and wrote about the desire to expand the gang and even drew pictures of racial lynching.

Texas has not set an execution date for King.

Photo credit Paul Buck/AFP/Getty Images

 

 

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