Unable To Stop A Hate Crime?

3rd Defendant In Dragging Death Denies Charge

The last defendant facing a murder trial in the East Texas dragging death of a black man is blaming the crime on his two co-defendants who have been sentenced to die for a brutal and racially motivated murder.

Shawn A. Berry, 24, told 60 Minutes II his version of what happened on the early morning of June 7, 1998, when James Byrd Jr. was chained to the bumper of Berry's pickup truck and dragged three miles to his death.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Berry, whose trial is set to begin in late October.

Berry insists his mistake was being in the wrong place with the wrong people -- white supremacists John W. King and Lawrence Russell Brewer.

In an interview with CBS Evening News Anchor Dan Rather for 60 Minutes II, Berry admitted he was there when the convicted killers picked up Byrd as he was hitchhiking last June. But Berry said it was the other two men who chained Byrd behind the pickup truck.

"I don't know how he was chained or where he was chained," Berry told CBS News. "It didn't take them long. Brewer walked around to my side. I was sitting on the doorjamb of the truck. He went to the driver's side, got in. Russell told me to scoot over. I sat in the truck, and they started dragging him down that dirt road."

Berry said he was too frightened to stop them. The two men have been sentenced to death for their roles.

King, 24, was convicted and sent to death row in February, while former prison buddy Brewer, 32, was sentenced to death last week. Both men were members of a white supremacist prison gang, the Confederate Knights of America, while jailed together.

"I was hanging around a bad crowd. I mean, that's no excuse. But I mean, I was with people that I shouldn't have been with," Berry told CBS News.

Berry and King had been friends for nearly a decade. Brewer had just come to town to visit King after losing a job, and all three stayed together at King's apartment.

On the night of the murder, the roommates had decided to go cruising in Berry's pickup. Along the way, they ran into Byrd, who was hitchhiking in Jasper. Berry offered him a ride home and Byrd hopped in the cab.

Byrd, who Berry describes as being "very drunk," ended up on the ground being kicked by both Brewer and King.

"They were laughing, joking, acting like they were having a good time," Berry said.

After Brewer covered Byrd's face with black spray paint, Berry said, Brewer kicked him in the head. Then he heard the chain being pulled out of the rear of the truck.

"I never saw them chain him up," Berry said.

Berry, sitting in between his two friends, says he asked Russell why he did it. "And he said he's starting 'The Turner Diaries' early."

"The Turner Diaries," called an inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh by the FBI, describes a race war in which white supremacists kill blacks.

Proecutors have said they have DNA evidence showing Byrd's blood was on Berry's shoes, and District Attorney Guy James Gray said Monday there is more evidence he has not released.

Berry's attorney, Joseph C. "Lum" Hawthorn, said his client's interview with 60 Minutes II is a re-telling of the statements he gave to police.



See CBS News Anchor Dan Rather's exclusive two-part interview with Berry on 60 Minutes II, on Tuesday, September 28 at 9 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. Central.