Prosecution Fights P.R. War in Texas Trial

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JASPER, Texas: The bigger the foe, the greater the victory. Which is why the prosecution in the Texas dragging-death trial is making an extra effort to turn accused killer John William King into a wanna-be neo-Nazi. "I do believe he was trying to form his own personal hate group in Jasper," District Attorney Guy James Gray said Tuesday, the first full day of testimony. "This killing was to promote his own personal agenda." This despite the fact one of his star witnesses, King's ex-girlfriend, says she knew nothing about it. The evidence against King already seems overwhelming, and the defense couldn't even muster opening arguments when the trial opened Monday. Why bother to turn a tattoo-covered, murderous redneck into a one-man Klan?

"My sense is that from George W. Bush on down, the state of Texas and Jasper in particular is trying to make an example out of this case," says TIME reporter Hillary Hilton. "This place has deep dark roots in this kind of thing, and with all the national press, it's an opportunity to try to cleanse its image." She notes the little things: plenty of black state troopers ringing the courthouse; Jasper locals tearing up the fence in a segregated cemetery. As for the jury, it's disproportionately white -- but as Hilton sees it, "it'll look that much better when they hang him." Until the verdict, look for John William King to get more evil every day.