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John William "Bill" King, center, in Texas. File photo: Paul Buck/AFP/Getty Images

John William King, a white supremacist who orchestrated the dragging death of black man James Byrd Jr. in one of the late 20th century's most notorious hate crimes — was executed in Texas Wednesday.

Details: The 44-year-old received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, for his role in the 1998 murder, which shocked America and led to the strengthening of state and federal hate crime laws.

The backdrop: King was the ringleader in the killing of Byrd, 49, who was beaten, chained to a truck and dragged for nearly 3 miles in the woods before his body was dumped by a road outside Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998.

The big picture: As a direct result of the murder case, Texas passed the James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Act in 2001. In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

  • King is the second and final man executed over the murder after having an appeal for a commutation or a 120-day reprieve denied Monday, the Texas Tribune reports. Lawrence Brewer was executed in 2011. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.
  • King spoke no final words but issued a last statement that said: "Capital Punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment."

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.