60 Minutes II correspondent Dan Rather talked to Shawn Allen Berry about his role in the murder of a well known local black man, James Byrd Jr., in Jasper, Texas, in this story that aired on September 28, 1999. James Byrd Jr. was picked up by three young white men, who chained him to the back of their truck and dragged him to his death. John William King and Lawrence Russell Brewer, white supremacists who became friends in prison, were eventually convicted and sentenced to death. Shawn Berry was awaiting judgment at the time of the report. Berry had testified that he had tried to stop the murder but was afraid of King and Brewer. He would eventually be sentenced to life in prison. The grisly murder was a national story, and CBS decided to air the Evening News live from the town square. The story was horrific and to some some degree emotional for Dan Rather, who identifies so much as a Texan. As producer Dana Roberson remembers, the interview was powerful, as Dan enabled Shawn Berry to tell his story and let the audience make up their minds.
The interview became a story of its own as the prosecutor demanded the videotape outtakes of the interview and a full transcript, in order to compare Berry's statements to Rather with others he gave during the investigation. Producer Mary Mapes refused, arguing that she did not have possession of the videotapes; they were in New York, a state which, unlike Texas, had a First Amendment protection of journalists and their notes and outtakes. State District Judge Joe Bob Golden held her in contempt and ordered her jailed. Mapes's attorney argued that "the tapes are the exclusive property of CBS and not Ms. Mapes" and that she should therefore not be held responsible. CBS News President Andrew Heyward stood by Mapes, declaring that "We are pursuing the legal means at our disposal to protect our constitutional rights and not turn over what we consider private confidential journalistic materials." Eventually the two sides came to an agreement: CBS posted the transcript on the Internet and did turn over the videotapes. All calls for contempt of court charges were dropped against Mapes.