Tweeting the execution

My Small History of Learfield and the Internet is nearing completion. Every drawer I open has some interesting new tidbit. Missourinet News Director Bob Priddy (now retired) share’s this gruesome bit of history:

“One of the highlights of our coverage of executions was when I became ( I think) the first reporter in the world who tweeted an execution. Dennis Skillicorn was executed in May, 2009. I could not take anything into the witness room except my notebook and a pen, and the book I had been reading in the waiting room, but I kept a careful chronology and as soon as we came out, I posted tweets on a minute-by-minute basis describing the events.

I stopped using Twitter in November of 2016 because it had become toxic with politics. Might return someday, might not. But searching for these Tweets reminds me of it’s historical importance.

Updating MissouriDeathRow.com

MissouriDeathRow.com was one of the first websites I did. And it looks like it. This was before flickr and Typepad and such. So I’m doing a little make-over. Hope to have it complete by the end of the year.

I’m starting with images and documents related to those executed in Missouri’s gas chamber. First time out, I just posted photos of the condemned. This time I’m posting the… not sure what to call it… the record or card for each inmate [flickr slideshow].

I scanned these from the state archives. For some reason, I find them fascinating.

The state archive has a file on each of the inmates executed in the gas chamber. I spent a week going through these, scanning as much as time allowed. Letters, notes, telegrams…

On June 24, 1962, Odom and another Death Row inmate attempted an escape. Odom’s file contained a report by the guard on duty at the time. I’ve also included  (from his appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court) a description of the crime for which Odom was executed.

Last laugh

Patrick Knight is scheduled to be executed later this month for the fatal shooting of his neighbors, Walter and Mary Werner, almost 16 years ago outside Amarillo. To come up with his final statement, Knight is accepting jokes mailed to him on Texas’ death row or emailed to a friend who has a Web site for him. The friend then mails him the jokes. Knight said the joke he finds the funniest will be his final statement the evening of June 26.

Knight said he got the idea for a joke as his last statement after a friend, Vincent Gutierrez, was executed earlier this year and laughed from the death chamber gurney: “Where’s a stunt double when you need one?”

Help me score and I’ll buy your lawn mower

I maintain a website called Missouri Death Row. No official connection to the Missouri Department of Corrections but it has become the de facto “official” website for capital punishment in Missouri. I struggle to keep the site current and was doing some research on one of the inmates currently sentenced to death:

“On December 9, 2002, Earl Forrest, who had been drinking, and his girlfriend, Angelia Gamblin, drove to Harriett Smith’s home. Forrest and Smith apparently had a falling out over a dishonored agreement with Smith to purchase a lawn mower and a mobile home for Forrest in exchange for Forrest introducing Smith to a source for methamphetamine. Forrest demanded that Smith fulfill her part of the bargain. During the ensuing melee, Forrest shot Michael Wells, a visitor at the Smith residence, in the face killing him. He also killed Smith, shooting her a total of six times.

Forrest removed a lockbox from Smith’s home containing approximately $25,000 worth of methamphetamine and returned to his home with Gamblin, where a shootout with the police ensued. The local sheriff was wounded and a deputy was killed. Forrest sustained a bullet wound to his face. Gamblin was shot twice, once in her shoulder and once in her back. Forrest finally surrendered and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He was found guilty on all three counts.”

Let me see if I have this right: I’ll introduce you to a source for meth…if you’ll buy my lawn mower and mobile home. How would two people ever come to that agreement?

“Come on, hook a sister up, will ya?”
“Well, I know this guy, but…”
“Look, help me score and I’ll buy your lawn mower AND your mobile home.”

Let’s skip the comments on this one. One of the arresting officers was killed and another wounded. One more sad, white trash story.

Death Row Blogger

“Vernon Lee Evans Jr. — amateur advice columnist and convicted murderer — is scheduled to die next month by lethal injection. He is one of the very few death row inmates to have a blog and, activists say, perhaps the only condemned man worldwide to use a blog to take questions from readers.” — washingtonpost.com:

I wondered about this a few years ago.

Execution journal: Donald Jones

In his capacity as news director for The Missourinet, Bob Priddy has witnessed 15 executions. The most recent was the April 27th execution of Donald Jones, for which Bob produced an “audio journal” that begins as he leaves his motel in Bonne Terre to go to the prison and ends as he prepares to leave the prison about two and a half hours later. Bob telescoped the audio down to about half an hour and some segments have been shifted for context purposes (the reading of the final statement of Donald Jones, for example).

Bob was not allowed to take his recorder to the execution witness area, so he summarizes the events that took place in that approximately 90-minute span. The main voices you will hear are those of Missourinet News Director Bob Priddy, Corrections Department spokesman John Fougere, and Corrections Director Larry Crawford. Voices of various other officers will be heard as part of the process.

A need to know

On March 25, 2002, I posted some thoughts on the movie Monster’s Ball, including a reference to the execution of James Henry Hampton two years previously (I was a media witness). On Thursday I received an email from someone (no name was provided, just initials) identifying herself as Hampton’s granddaughter.

I have just recently learned that I am the granddaughter of James Henry Hampton, a man you saw executed on March 22, 2000, ironically the night of my junior prom. I’ve been searching for information on him for a while, because my family refuses to tell me even his last name or anything about him. I was only told of his first name and my mother informed me the night of my celebration that my real grandfather was being executed. The only leads I have are the online articles I’ve come across. My friend came across your web log and suggested I e-mail you. So I guess I’ll get to the point. Can you please tell me all that you can remember about my grandfather’s execution? Was he hateful or spiteful? Was he scared and lonely? Regretful? I realize that this man was an atrocity to society but this same man’s blood courses through my veins. I’m the only one in my family who apparently has his color features and love for root beer (only thing mom and grandma ever let slip when I ordered it at a restaurant). So please sir, tell me what you can, to help me in my search for my family’s truths. Thank you for your time.

I replied with a description of the execution and a link to a website with more information about her grandfather. I can only wonder at the woman’s curiosity that she would be moved to ask a stranger to “…tell me all that you can remember about my grandfather’s execution.” As we (the official witnesses) waited for Hampton’s execution, I had many thoughts. That this man might have a granddaughter attending her junior prom was not one of them. Another example of Dr. Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined.