Man convicted in Jasper dragging death executed - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

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Man convicted in Jasper dragging death executed

Lawrence Russell Brewer Lawrence Russell Brewer
Lawrence Russell Brewer. Photo Source: Jasper Co. Sheriff's Dept. Lawrence Russell Brewer. Photo Source: Jasper Co. Sheriff's Dept.
Lawrence Russell Brewer. Photo Source: TDCJ. Lawrence Russell Brewer. Photo Source: TDCJ.
James Byrd Jr. James Byrd Jr.
Outside Huntsville the night of Brewer's execution Outside Huntsville the night of Brewer's execution

JASPER, TX (KTRE/KLTV) – Lawrence Russell Brewer, a purported white supremacist was executed on Wednesday evening for the brutal 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr.

It has been 13 years since the nation learned of the murder of Byrd, a black man chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death in Jasper.

Byrd was killed on June 7, 1998 on a rural road. His decapitated body was found the next day. Prior to Byrd's murder, Brewer had served a prison sentence for drug possession and burglary.

According to the Associated Press, Brewer's extensive last meal included two chicken friend steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, and a pint of ice cream.

Brewer is the first of two men on death row for Byrd's death to be executed. His lethal injection has put Jasper back in the national spotlight.

The horrific murder of Byrd set into motion a call for special hate crime laws in Texas.  It later led to the Federal October 22, 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, commonly known as the Matthew Shepard Act. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009.

"Today is a good day as well as a sad day and what I mean by that is that I'm okay because I have gotten peace with everything and the sad thing about it is that he says he has no remorse and that saddens me," said Betty Boatner, Byrd's sister.

Boatner still lives in Jasper and says she often visits her brother's grave. She says even though their parents taught them about forgiveness it was a still a process for them to forgive their brother's killer. "We forgave him. We didn't convict him."

On Tuesday, Byrd was remembered during a graveside memorial. Lifelong residents say the community is still healing. "We're going to have to live together, and we're gonna have to pray together and we're gonna have to get along with everybody and love one another. It's gonna take love," Katie Larkin Adams said.

"Today, we are gathered here to say to Jasper you can kill this brother, but you can't kill Jasper," civil rights activist Dick Gregory said.  "And it's tragedies like this that bring out the goodness in all of us, not the evil in all of us."

The racism stigma lingers in the small town, some say, pointing to a recent attempt to oust three black city council members who helped confirm a black man as police chief.  Many others say the label is unfair.

There were two others convicted in Byrd's murder. John King is serving a death row sentence in Polk County. His case is still under appeal and no execution date has been set. Sean Berry is serving a life sentence in Brazoria County.

Two of Byrd's sisters say they will attend Wednesday's execution.  Byrd's mother, Stella, died last year.

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