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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."
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Go deeper

Birx: Trump White House could have reduced COVID deaths by 30 to 40%

Deborah Birx, then-coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a news conference in the White House last November. Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deborah Birx, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator under former President Trump, told a House subcommittee this month that the Trump administration could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths during the early stages of the pandemic.

Driving the news: "I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining ... and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30% less to 40% less range," Birx said in closed-door testimony to the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, according to excerpts provided by the panel.

Study: Fear of debt keeps Latinos out of college

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fear of never being able to pay off school loans is keeping many young Latinos in the U.S. from going to college or completing a degree, according to a report published in September.

State of play: Latinos tend to have more difficulty repaying school debt than white student borrowers, according to Federal Reserve data, at the same time that they need more loans in order to afford tuition.

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Biden administration objects to Israeli settlements plan

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett (L) meets with Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty

The Biden administration has privately protested to the Israeli government over its plan to approve the planning and construction of more than 3,000 new housing units in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: The approvals for new homes in the settlements will be the first since President Biden assumed office, and come after Biden and his top aides personally pressed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to restrain settlement activity and decrease the number of new housing units.