Tex. Suspect Denies Hate Crime
Nov. 11, 1998
DALLAS (AP) _ The beating and dragging death of a black man in Jasper was not a racially-motivated hate crime, according to one of three white defendants in the case.
John William ``Bill'' King said in a written statement released to The Dallas Morning News that co-defendant Shawn Berry had drug ties to the victim, James Byrd Jr., and that Berry's ``irate temper, abusive behavior and steroid use'' were likely causes of the June 7 kidnapping and slaying.
``It's been prematurely concluded that this was some sort of hate crime with me implicated as the initiator, despite unsubstantial evidence. Thus overlooking facts that imply otherwise,'' according to King's statement, quoted in Wednesday editions of the News.
The seven-page statement was released by King's father over the objection of defense attorney C. Haden ``Sonny'' Cribbs, who called the document a ``terrible, terrible mistake.''
Berry had cooperated with authorities after his arrest, telling them he watched from a distance while King and Lawrence Brewer stomped and dragged Byrd from a pickup truck.
But subsequent evidence, including blood found on Berry's shoes, shows he might actually have participated in the attack, authorities said after all three were indicted on a charge of capital murder.
Authorities say they know of no evidence to support King's claims of Berry having drug ties to Byrd.
Berry's attorney, Lum Hawthorn of Beaumont, said his client has consistently denied participating in the attack.