On February 16, 1999, William King was delivered in a bulletproof vest to the Jasper County Courthouse to begin his capital murder trial in the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. Surrounded by officers, King remained silent.
Law enforcement officials from several departments surrounded the courthouse. Authorities worked around the clock to ensure the safety of the family members, the jurors, and even the suspect. It would seem that this high-profile case that has attracted national attention might bring even more danger to all involved.
The state subpoenaed 40 witnesses in the case and said they were confident that the graphic testimony and evidence would speak for itself.
Prosecutor Guy James Gray said, "I think he's got 3 motives. I think he's got one to attract attention to the organization (White Supremacist), I think he's got another one that's racist, and I think he's got a third one that's more in the nature of just being evil or Satanic.
Evidence against King included letters that he sent to his girlfriend from prison; she at the time was 13. Some of those letters start with "My Precious Aryan Princess," and end with "Stay White And Beautiful." The prosecution also showed a lighter that was found at the scene of the murder that not only bared King's nickname, "Possum," but also showed the KKK symbol.
Defense attorney Sonny Cribbs disagreed with the prosecutions portrait of his client as a racist. He said, "That's his opinion."