(Austin, Texas) – Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today released the following statement on the execution of Lawrence Brewer, convicted of the 1998 hate murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas.
“This is a solemn occasion, but I believe the appropriate punishment was levied in this case. Lawrence Brewer was a ringleader in the most brutal hate crime in the post-Civil Rights era; the ultimate sentence is reserved for cases like murder of James Byrd, Jr. Mr. Brewer’s execution will never heal the wound he created, but it will close a chapter in this tragic story.
“James Byrd’s murder certainly changed Texas and, in many ways, the nation. It was a wake-up call that evil and hate, while no longer considered mainstream views, are more prevalent and virulent than we pretend. Passage of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act was a watershed moment for Texas and helped us turn the page a bit on an aspect of our past that has often been glossed over. I believe the horrific nature of this crime — and how the Jasper community and Texas responded — helped move the state and nation forward.
“People forget that President Clinton spoke eloquently on this issue during the debate in 1999 and elevated this discussion to the top of the agenda, highlighting the hate and violence we were fighting in Kosovo with similar demons here at home and how we can come together to stand up to such bigotry for the benefit of all. In 2001, it passed both chambers with bipartisan support and I still believe signing this bill into law is one of Governor Perry’s finest moments in office.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Byrd family, but also Mr. Brewer’s family. They have suffered a deep and personal loss today that cannot be overstated. I hope that each family can find the peace they deserve.”