MacPhail was 27 when he died, leaving behind his wife, an infant son and a year-old daughter.
Had he lived, MacPhail would be nearing retirement. He would have taught his kids to ride a bike and to drive. He would have been there at their graduations.
I like to think he was there for those occasions - and with them every minute of their lives.
James Byrd Jr. has an entry in Wikipedia. He was one of nine children born to Stella and James Byrd Sr.
Mrs. Byrd died last year, but his father survives at age 87.
On June 7, 1998, Byrd accepted a ride from Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer and John King. Instead of taking him home, the men took him to a remote area, beat him, chained him to a pickup truck and dragged his body for three miles.
Byrd's murder sparked national outrage. Basketball star Dennis Rodman contributed $25,000 toward his funeral, and promoter Don King gave $100,000 toward the education of his children.
Some good did come out of the tragedy in the end.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a state hate crimes bill into law, and President Obama later signed a law expanding the national hate crime law in the name of Byrd and Matthew Sheppard.
The NAACP condemned the execution of King last week, as did Byrd's son and other family members.
Same arguments can be made against executions, but emotional pleas of a capricious criminal justice system are easily refuted.
The Troy Davis case shows that this nation is very careful in making sure a man is guilty before that lethal injection.
The same liberals who insist on the infallibility of the government on all other matters want citizens to believe that the government is all fumbles when it comes to criminal justice.
Executions are rare, and occur only after exhaustive review by appeals courts.
Far from being evidence of a barbaric society, this shows a very civilized society that reveres justice even if it means guilty men sometimes get away with murder.