JASPER, Texas (AP) -- Last June, just hours after the black man's right arm, head and torso were recovered from where they'd scattered as he was dragged two blood-smeared miles behind a pickup truck, investigators zeroed in on three white suspects.

All had blood on their shoes. All had criminal records. Two of the three reportedly had white supremacist leanings, reinforced in prison and reflected in racist tattoos that blanketed their upper bodies.A wrench engraved with the third man's last name was found near the shredded body of James Byrd Jr.

Despite the provocative physical evidence, the trial of the first suspect, John William "Bill" King will not be open and shut when it begins Monday with jury selection.

King, 24, is an ex-convict with a history of involvement in a racist prison gang. But whether he intended to kidnap Byrd and then to kill him will be key in the capital murder case -- and, if he is convicted, it will be key to whether he's sentenced to life in prison or put to death.

"You have to have an intentional murder to have capital murder," says Neil McCabe, who teaches at South Texas School of Law in Houston. "They have to prove kidnapping beyond a reasonable doubt, and they have to prove intent to kill beyond a reasonable doubt."

Shawn Allen Berry, 23, whose wrench was found near Byrd's body, was the only defendant to give a statement about events leading to Byrd's death. But his statement is legally inadmissible unless he testifies, and his attorney says he won't permit Berry on the stand without a plea agreement.

Berry's attorney, Joseph C. "Lum" Hawthorn, says he believes District Attorney Guy James Gray intends to go forward without Berry's testimony. Gray has declined to discuss his strategy. King's attorney, C. Haden Cribbs, also declined to be interviewed.

Byrd's murder scarred Jasper, an east Texas timber town of 8,000 people just west of the Louisiana line. Reporters arrived from around the world, closely followed by knots of Ku Klux Klansmen and New Black Panthers.

The defendants -- King, Berry and Lawrence Russell Brewer, 31 -- were roommates who shared an apartment. Berry, brought in for questioning because of the wrench, told officers the three men had been drinking the evening of June 6.

Prosecutors charged King, Brewer and Berry with capital murder but decided to try the cases separately. King's is the second capital murder trial in Jasper County. The only other one was in 1992.