1979: Jesse Bishop

Add comment October 22nd, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1979, Jesse Bishop was gassed in Nevada.

The third person executed under the “modern” U.S. death penalty regime — after Gary Gilmore in 1976 and John Spenkelink earlier in 1979 — Bishop was a career felon with a years-long rap sheet of armed robberies and drug crimes.

In 1977, he was engaged in his customary business of knocking over the (now defunct) El Morocco Casino when a newlywed groom left his nearby wedding reception to stage a heroic intervention. Bishop gunned down David Ballard, “like a dog.”

Like Gary Gilmore in neighboring Utah, Bishop was a resolute volunteer for taking his punishment. In his last hours he had a telephone provided him, so that resuming his abandoned appeals would be within arm’s reach at any moment he desired. Bishop never touched it.

Breezily calling the death penalty an “occupational hazard” in his line of work, he was the calmest guy in the place when they sat him down for his hydrogen cyanide sauna. Time magazine cast the scene thus:

Dressed in a crisp white shirt and pressed Levis, he strode purposefully into the freshly whitewashed chamber at Nevada State Prison, near Carson City. “He looked as if he were ready to go to a disco,” recalls TIME’s Guy Shipler, one of 14 official witnesses.

Bishop was the last person to die in Nevada’s venerable gas chamber; all subsequent executions there have been by lethal injection.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Gassed,Murder,Nevada,Theft,USA,Volunteers

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