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Top Morning Stories September 22, 2011

The state of Texas executed Lawrence Russell Brewer Wednesday for the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr.
Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The state of Texas executed Lawrence Russell Brewer Wednesday for the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr.

Brewer Executed for Jasper Dragging Death

Documented white supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in Texas yesterday. Brewer was put to death for the high-profile dragging death of James Byrd Jr., an African American man, in Jasper, Texas. Here are more details about the 1998 murder from The Texas Department of Criminal Justice :

The offense involved Brewer and two co-defendants torturing and killing a 49-year old handicapped black male during the nighttime hours, in rural Jasper County, Texas. The victim was observed in the back of a pickup truck occupied by Brewer and his co-defendants. This was the last occasion the victim was seen alive by persons other than Brewer and his co-defendants. Brewer and his co-defendants drove to an isolated spot on a logging road where they beat and tormented the victim, then tied him to a logging chain, which was hooked to the pickup truck. Brewer and his co-defendants then dragged the victim to his death, leaving his decapitated and dismembered body to be found the following day by citizens and law enforcement officials

One of Brewer's co-defendants is on death row. The other is serving a life sentence.

Council: Too Late to Stop WTP4

It appears construction of Water Treatment Plant 4 in Austin will move forward. Council members heard a key report from the city auditor's officeyesterday. YNN posted a statement from Council Member Bill Spelman's office. It said the city auditor confirmed that putting the brakes on WTP4 would cost the city at least an additional $100 million.

"We won’t need the water from this plant for years, and we started it too soon. None of that has changed. But now that we’re partway done, it’s also clear that the only fiscally responsible thing to do is to finish this project. It’s too late to put this genie back in the bottle,” said Spelman. 

The Austin American-Statesmanreports all city council members are now on the same page:

"It's clear from this analysis that the costs of delaying are too high to contemplate," said Council Member Kathie Tovo, a plant skeptic who was elected to the council in June, creating the political circumstances under which a halt to construction was possible. Council Members Laura Morrison and Chris Riley have also been critical , but they said stopping now would cost too much. Council Member Sheryl Cole said she had agreed to study stopping the project to ensure that "we have done our due diligence." 

Trail of Lights Back this Holiday Season

The Trail of Lights will be back this year at Zilker Park. If you can recall, the Austin holiday lights tradition was scaled back in 2009 and then canceled last year. This year a couple of marketing companies are in charge of the festival slated for Friday December 9th to Sunday December 18th.

Tickets will be $5 for people 11 years and older and free for children 10 and under.  $1 per ticket will go to the city. Event organizers are looking for people, groups or businesses to help sponsor the event. They envision lighted displays, a trailer food court and live performances. Find more info about this year's Trail of Lights here.