Byrd Murder Trial

I think I can probably remember all the details of evidence, of trials, of juries. Everything about it. It's just about as raw today as it was 20 years ago to me.

In the early hours of June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr. was walking home from a party in Jasper when three young men in a pick-up truck passed by and offered him a ride. The trio, Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John William King, proceeded to assault Byrd and chain him to the back of the truck before dragging him by his ankles for three miles. Byrd died about halfway along the route. All three assailants were convicted of capital murder the following year. King and Brewer received the death penalty, Berry life imprisonment. According to Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray, a white man had never received the death sentence for the murder of a black man in the state of Texas before. 

A horrific example of the violence still experienced by black people in the United States 30 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the case galvanized the passage of hate crime legislation on both a state and national level. Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2001. President Barack Obama enacted the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act eight years later.

In the early hours of June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr. was walking home from a party in Jasper when three young men in a pick-up truck passed by and offered him a ride. The trio, Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John William King, proceeded to assault Byrd and chain him to the back of the truck before dragging him by his ankles for three miles. Byrd died about halfway along the route. All three assailants were convicted of capital murder the following year. King and Brewer received the death penalty, Berry life imprisonment. According to Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray, a white man had never received the death sentence for the murder of a black man in the state of Texas before. 

A horrific example of the violence still experienced by black people in the United States 30 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the case galvanized the passage of hate crime legislation on both a state and national level. Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2001. President Barack Obama enacted the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act eight years later.

In the early hours of June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr. was walking home from a party in Jasper when three young men in a pick-up truck passed by and offered him a ride. The trio, Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John William King, proceeded to assault Byrd and chain him to the back of the truck before dragging him by his ankles for three miles. Byrd died about halfway along the route. All three assailants were convicted of capital murder the following year. King and Brewer received the death penalty, Berry life imprisonment. According to Jasper County District Attorney Guy James Gray, a white man had never received the death sentence for the murder of a black man in the state of Texas before. 

A horrific example of the violence still experienced by black people in the United States 30 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the case galvanized the passage of hate crime legislation on both a state and national level. Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2001. President Barack Obama enacted the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act eight years later.

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