Lawrence Russell Brewer, a member of the white supremacist gang the Confederate Knights of America was executed Wednesday evening for the 1998 dragging murder of James Byrd, Jr., a African American from Jasper in East Texas.
Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a truck and dragged to death across an asphalt road 13 years ago. The hate crime drew international attention for its viciousness.
Brewer’s appeals to the courts dissipated, and no last-day attempts to save his life were made.
Brewer, 44, was transferred to the Walls Unit in Huntsville Wednesday for execution for his role in the crime.
The grounds surrounding the Walls Unit hours prior to his death were riddled with two separated groups: those for the death penalty and those against it.
“Nobody should kill people; the state shouldn’t kill people,” said Civil Rights Activist Dick Gregory.
A handful of protesters spent Tuesday night fasting and holding a vigil for Brewer’s life, including Gregory and activist Ricky Jason.
“I joined in with Dick Gregory and Ricky [Jason]… because I wanted to make a statement against capital punishment,” said Dave Atwood, the founder of the statewide group The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “What’s particularly powerful, I think, about this situation with Dick Gregory and Ricky Jason is that they’re both African American and they’re opposing the death penalty for somebody who committed a horrible, racist crime. It speaks volumes about their characters and it’s a lesson for all of us.”
As if the five separate security agencies weren’t enough to put a stop to any violence before it began, the opposing groups could not see each other due to distance and landscaping, reinforcing that no violence would ensue. On the other side of the prison’s foreground were people in favor of the death penalty.
“The crime was horrific and he deserves the death penalty. It was created for people like him,” said a Sam Houston State University alumnus who wished to remain anonymous.
Not all of the death penalty supporters viewed Brewer’s execution in such high spirits.
“I have mixed emotions about it,” said Lanora Brown, a sophomore criminal justice student at SHSU. “I’m happy that it’s finally here, but sad because someone is losing their life.
Brown is a distant relative to Byrd and said that much of his family chose to stay home and not come to the prison.
Before his death Brewer savored a last meal of chicken fried steak, a cheese omelet, a triple meat hamburger, a pound of barbeque, okra, fajitas, a meat pizza and a slab of peanut butter.
Brewer was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. and reportedly showed no remorse for his actions
John William King, 36, and Shawn Berry, 36, were in cahoots with Brewer the night of the tragic hate crime. King was convicted of capital murder and sent to death row; his sentence remains under appeal. Berry received a life sentence.