On July 6, 1998, a Grand Jury in Jasper indicted the three men charged with James Byrd Jr's death. The three men were Shawn Allen Berry of Jasper, John William King of Jasper, and Lawrence Russell Brewer of Sulphur Springs.
Brewer was on parole at the time as a convicted drug dealer. As a part of his early release from prison, he was supposed to attend meetings of narcotics anonymous and alcoholics anonymous 4 times a month. He quit attending in November of 1997, but parole officials did not penalize him. Three weeks prior to the death of Byrd, parole officers lost the required face-to-face contact with Brewer. He was also living with King at the time of the murder in violation of his parole. It is against rules for ex-convicts to associate with each other.
The three were originally going to be tried together, but it was later decided that separate trials were necessary.