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White supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer has been executed via lethal injection for the infamous dragging death slaying of James Byrd jnr, a black man from East Texas.

Mr Byrd, 49, was chained up to the back of a pick-up truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy bitumen road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.

Brewer, 44, was asked if he had any final words, to which he replied:

“No. I have no final statement.”

A single tear glistened from his right eye.

He was pronounced dead at 6.21pm local time (9.21am AEST), 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms, both of which were covered with intricate black tattoos.

Brewer’s parents and two of Mr Byrd’s sisters were in attendance.

Appeals to the courts for Brewer were exhausted and no last-day attempts to save his life were filed.

Besides Brewer, John William King, now 36, was also convicted of capital murder and sent to death row for Mr Byrd’s death, which shocked the nation for its brutality.

King’s conviction and death sentence remain under appeal.

A third man, Shawn Berry, 36, received a life prison term.

“One down and one to go,” Billy Rowles, the retired Jasper County sheriff who first investigated the horrific scene, said. “That’s kind of cruel but that’s the reality of it all.”

Mr Byrd’s sister, Clara Taylor, said someone from her brother’s family needed to be present to watch Brewer die so she was among witnesses in the death chamber.

“He had choices,” she said, referring to Brewer. “He made the wrong choices & now has paid the price.”

While the lethal injection would not compare to the horrible death her brother endured, she said: “Knowing you’re going to be executed, that has to be a sobering thought.”

It was about 2.30am on a Sunday, June 7, 1998, when witnesses saw Mr Byrd walking on a road not far from his home in Jasper, a town of more than 7000 about 200 kilometres north-east of Houston.

Many knew he lived off disability cheques, could not afford his own car and walked where he needed to go. Another witness then saw him riding in the back of a dark pick-up.

Six hours later and about 16 kilometres away on Huff Creek Road, the bloody mess found after daybreak was thought at first to be animal road kill.

Mr Rowles, a former Texas state trooper who had only just taken office as sheriff the previous year, believed it was a hit-and-run fatality but evidence did not match up with someone caught beneath a vehicle.

Body parts were scattered and the blood trail began with footprints at what appeared to be the scene of a scuffle.

“I didn’t go down that road too far before I knew this was going to be a bad deal,” he said at Brewer’s trial.

Fingerprints taken from the headless torso identified the victim as Mr Byrd.

Testimony showed the three men and Mr Byrd drove out into the county about 16 kilometres and stopped along an isolated logging road.

A fight broke out and Mr Byrd was tied to the truck bumper with a 7.5-metre logging chain. What was left of his shredded remains was dumped between a black church and cemetery where the pavement ended on the remote road.

Brewer, King and Berry were in custody by the end of the next day.

The crime put Jasper under a national spotlight and lured the likes of the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers, among others, to try to exploit the notoriety of the case which continues – many say unfairly – to brand Jasper more than a decade later.

King was tried first, in Jasper. Brewer’s trial was moved 240 kilometres away to Bryan. Berry was tried in Jasper.

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