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King Goes To Death Row

John William King, who represents America at its very worst, got the maximum sentence Thursday for one of the most horrible crimes ever committed in this country, reports CBS Evening News Anchor Dan Rather.

King, a white supremacist, will be executed for chaining a black man to a pickup truck and dragging him to his death. Unlike his victim, King's death will be painless. He will die by lethal injection.

In a courthouse ringed by cameras and crowds, Judge Joe Bob Golden read King the verdict: "I hereby sentence you to death by injection. Sheriff, you may take him into the department of criminal justice to await an execution date."

The jury of 11 whites and their elected black foreman needed just three hours to reach the death sentence verdict.

They had to decide whether King was a continuing threat to society, whether the murder of James Byrd Jr. was intentional, and if any mitigating factor in King's background merited the lesser punishment. They answered yes to the first two questions, no to the third.

King is the first white man sent to Texas' death row for killing a black person since capital punishment resumed in the state in the mid-1970s.

One of the prosecutors in the case, Pat Hardy said, "I feel like justice was done. That's what our job is, to see that justice was done."

There were no tears in the courtroom for the killer, but the family of James Byrd, Jr. wept with relief.

Hardy praised the Byrd family, "They have helped. We have had a lot of people down here that would have really liked to have stirred this thing up. All it would have taken would have been a little help from the Byrd family. You couldn't blame them for what happened to their son, their dad, their brother, but they waited to see that justice was done. Thank the Lord it was."

Defense attorney Sonny Cribbs pleaded with the jury, "Please don't kill this young man. We've all got to stop hating."

King listened without emotion, and without looking at the people who would decide whether he lived or died.

It was all too much for King's ailing father, who went home without waiting to hear the sentence. Before leaving, he embraced his son. It would be the last time they are allowed to touch.

Mary Verett, Byrd's sister, said "What we have to realize is that it was his son, Bill King, that made a choice to bring this pain upon his father."

For the Byrd family, the victory is bittersweet. They still face the trials of two more men accused in the killing, Lawrence Brewster and Shawn Berry. And, there will be an automatic appeal of the King verdict, explained one of the prosecutors.

For the jury, there was relief, but no regrets. "We looked for ways not to have to do what we did today, and they were not there," said juror Laquita Flowers. "You just can't have this. Society cannot accept this."

Bill King watched from the window as people celebrated on the courthouse lawn.

Oe town resident, Charlotte Hillard said, "He's evil. He's the clearest picture of Satan that I think I've ever seen."

King proved it to the people of Jasper again, crudely cursing them as he left the courthouse. A man without friends, a man without a future.