Ken Lay, lynching victim?

At a memorial service for the Enron chairman, a local pastor equates Lay's prosection to the gruesome murder of an African-American man.

Published July 13, 2006 4:47PM (EDT)

In 1998, three Texas men attacked a 49-year-old African-American named James Byrd. They cut his throat, chained him to the back of a pickup truck, then dragged him along a road for several miles. Byrd was alive for at least part of the ordeal; a forensic pathologist said that Byrd lived until he hit a culvert and his arm and head were severed. His attackers dragged what was left of his body for at least an additional mile.

Gruesome? Yes, but it's apparently no worse than what happened to Ken Lay.

The former Enron chairman died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Aspen, Colo., last week. At a memorial service in Houston Wednesday -- with former President George H.W. Bush in attendance -- a local pastor likened Lay's prosecution in Enron's collapse to the attack on Byrd. "Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, as James Byrd was," said the Rev. William Lawson, pastor emeritus of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. "But I'm angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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