A white supremacist gang member was headed to the death chamber Wednesday for the infamous dragging death 13 years ago of James Byrd Jr., a black man from Jasper in East Texas.
Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.
Appeals to the courts for inmate Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, were exhausted and no last-day attempts to save his life were filed.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, this case was the subject of what is probably the most dishonest television commercial in the TV-era history of such campaigns. The NAACP ran footage of a chain dragging behind a pickup while castigating George Bush over a Texas hate-crime law. The implication was that Bush was soft on crimes such as this. The truth is exactly the opposite. The NAACP is the one that is soft on crimes such as this. Texas gave the two main killers a punishment greater than the maximum the NAACP supports, and one of these sentences will be carried out today.
The execution is a counterexample to one of the persistent myths the opposition constantly pushes: that our society is less willing to impose this punishment in black-victim cases. We have refuted that time and again. See my Engage article and my testimony at the London event. But concrete examples sometimes do more to sway public opinion than studies or papers. That is why I find it regrettable that this execution will be lost in the Davis hubbub. Well, there's one more coming down the pipeline.
Update: Justice has been served. AP story here.