Also on Wednesday night, singer Lauryn Hill won the most Grammys ever for a female artist. Meanwhile, a shock jock named the Greaseman criticized Hill's music and added "no wonder people drag them behind trucks." He apologized and was suspended, but the race damage was done.
To African American broadcaster Donnie Simpson, the link between Jasper and everyday racism boils down to the question: How do whites really view blacks?
"I don't care how powerful you think you are. To a lot of people you're still a nigger," Simpson, who hosts a radio show, told CBS News.
The trial in Jasper has riveted the country, not because blacks fear being dragged down a back road, but because that back road symbolizes the denial of fundamental, gut-level acceptance.
Ellis Cose has written a book on that very subject. "Have we become a society where people can be confident?" Cose asks. "[Can] black people, people of color in general, be confident they won't be judged by the color of their skin? No, we have not become that society yet."
But America is a society where John William King was condemned by a mostly white jury. And where Lauryn Hill was triumphant because of her talent.
Yet on that back road, black Americans still feel they haven't completely escaped the chains.