1983: Jimmy Lee Gray, drunk-gassed

Just after midnight on this date in 1983, Jimmy Lee Gray gruesomely paid with his life in the Mississippi gas chamber for raping and murdering a three-year-old.

Mississippi’s gas chamber had had a checkered history since its first usage in 1955, and with America just emerging from a long lull in executions, Jimmy Lee Gray was its first client in 19 years.

“Sumbitch took a little three-year-old girl out into the bush and he raped her,” executioner T. Barry Bruce would later explain of the man’s crime. “Then he tried to shove her panties down her throat with a stick, then he pushed her head into a little crick full of running shit and then he broke her neck. So yeah, I feel real sorry for Jimmy Lee.”

Gray was on parole at the time for the 1968 murder of his teenage sweetheart, so no — nobody felt all that sorry for Jimmy Lee, not even his mom.

But the reason that questions about the affair were being directed at the executioner (usually a party as silent in these matters as he is implacable) was that Jimmy Lee Gray’s had been drunk on the job — and the execution was a notorious horrorshow.

“Gasping” or “moaning” a recorded eleven times, Gray convulsed wildly in the Parchman death chair, slamming his unrestrained head “with enough force to shake the chamber” against a metal pole that some user interface genius had positioned right behind the death chair. The witness room was cleared eight minutes into the affair, with Gray still thrashing about.

Though the Magnolia State contended that Gray was clinically dead within two minutes, that head-smashing act disturbed everyone.

As a result, for the third time in a half-century, Mississippi switched to a newer and supposedly more humane method for killing people — adopting lethal injection for anyone sentenced to death after July 1, 1984. (Three more prisoners already condemned under the old sentencing guidelines would die in the gas chamber in the late eighties, however.)

Actual executions in the U.S. were still novel enough in the early 1980s that Gray’s made national news — albeit distinctly second fiddle to the tense Cold War escalation occasioned by the September 1 Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007.

11 thoughts on “1983: Jimmy Lee Gray, drunk-gassed”

  1. @ Obamarama: Yes, they truly deserve this kind of treatment. We need to build concentration camps designed for scmbags like these…I truly these ppl should be b*urnt, lnched, have objcts inserted in them till their internals are ruptured…., And btw.. If you were running for president and would promise to bring this kind of justice…. I would be the FIRST to vote you in…. Scrw everyone else…

  2. If you ask me, he still got away easy. He should have been sodomized brutally while choking on his own crap stained underwear then, MAYBE, the punishment would have fit the crime! By the way, I am running for president in 2012! Vote me in, y’all!

  3. Well, I honestly don’t give a shit about Jimmy Lee Gray. He deserved to die this way, and the pain was well-deserved.

    1. You are a really crazy SOB, to be sure. They should execute anyone whose middle name is Lee? Excuse me, but I have a friend who is 2 1/2 years old, and her first name is Elsie, and her middle name is Lee. And her mom’s middle name is Lee too. And both of them are very nice people. And I am an assistant volunteer at my local library at Preschooler Storytime and have been for 11 years. Go to Hell, you sicko. You are a nut. Maybe we should execute people whose name is “Only The Penitent Man Shall Pass”, you sc*mb*g. You seriously have no empathy. And I happen to be autistic and people say we autistic people don’t have empathy. Yeah, compared to you, I have a lot of empathy. Shut up. – Codi Preston D.

      1. Codi, I’m pretty sure this guy was joking. There just happen to be what seems like a lot of infamous murderers with the middle names of Lee or Wayne. Perhaps your autism makes it hard for you to understand the joke — I’ve got high-functioning autism myself so I know what it’s like.

        1. Maybe he was joking, but it is a very poor joke at the very best. I know lots of nice people who had the middle name Lee or Wayne. There was a little boy named Lee Iseli from Portland, Oregon in 1989 who was killed by a child murderer named Westley Allan Dodd. And as I mentioned, one of my friends who is a toddler is named Elsie Lee (last name withheld). I know autistic people sometimes can’t see jokes, Meaghan, but still, it seems to be a very crude joke. Just wondering about you – you say you have high functioning Autism? Very interesting. There aren’t that many people with HFA or autism spectrum disorders around in many places. I’ll say that I am still emotionally and socially like a 4-5 year old in many ways, which is unlike some others with HFA. Sadly, some of the people who are more higher functioning emotionally/socially who are like 16 or 17 year olds in their mind, bully people like me. I’ve also seen other friends of mine who are like 12 year olds emotionally and socially (chronologically in their 20s, 30s, or 40s) get bullied too by these people. If you ask a developmental psychiatrist, they would tell you people who are like 16 year olds emotionally/socially are more “mature” than people who are like 5 year olds. I wouldn’t call that “mature”, to bully people under you (whether that be, emotionally, socially, or intellectually, or physically, or chronologically). If this is the case, I hope I always stay like a 5 year old. I’m almost 41 chronologically, but I act like a 5 year old. But if bullying people under you is called “mature”, I’d rather not have that maturity, thank you very much. The sad part is my friends who are children, eventually they outgrow me and don’t like what I like anymore. I still love to watch Care Bears, Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear cartoons, Pink Panther cartoons, etc. and I was a big Teletubbies fan in college in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and I also loved Barney in high school. I was in 12th grade back then around 1993-94. And yes, I’ve been an assistant volunteer at Preschooler Storytime for 11 years at my local library, every Friday. I never got paid for doing this, I never got any monetary gain, I did this out of the goodness of my heart. I do different children’s songs with the 3-5 year olds, like “Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly”, “The Chicken Dance” and “Five Little Monkeys Swinging From A Tree” and we’ve done hundreds, if not thousands of oldies songs over the past 11 years, plus sock hops during Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc. in which children dance to oldies music and I also provide the music for these events. I also collect baseball caps from different cities and towns and counties and airports and show them the hats and talk about a different city every Friday, and what are the attractions there and what crops grow there, and why is it important for 2 minutes or so. Last week, I did my presentation on Rock Hill, South Carolina, The week before that, I showed my hat from Kissimmee, Florida and talked about it being near Walt Disney World and that a lot of people who work at Disney World live in Kissimmee and a lot of visitors live in hotels in Kissimmee when they visit Disney World. And that citrus crops are grown in that section of Florida like oranges and other such fruit. I get these hats usually from public works departments from cities and towns. I also used to collect lapel pins frequently from cities, towns, counties, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, irrigation districts, community colleges, universities, school districts, zoos, aquariums, etc. I have 1,500 pins in my collection. I collect many other things too aside from pins and baseball caps, such as 45 rpm records (I love oldies music from the 1950s to the 1980s), street maps, etc. I’m from the West Coast, but I actually want to move to Upstate South Carolina (Greenville / Spartanburg area). I absolutely love South Carolina, the people are very nice there. Been in SC several times and always enjoyed my visits there. North Carolina is a wonderful state too. Most of my hats / pins are from places in Tidewater Virginia (Norfolk area), or North Carolina, South Carolina, or California or southern Oregon. Thanks for your comment, Meaghan – – Codi Preston D.

        2. And, for the record, I am anti-death penalty. I’m actually a Conservative Republican. People sometimes think anyone who is anti-death penalty is a “bleeding hearted liberal”, but that isn’t true all the time. I know some quite liberal people who are pro-death penalty, and I know some Conservatives who are not for the death penalty. Anyway, Meaghan, if you want to email me, let me know and I will find a way to give my email to you. Take care — Codi Preston D.

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