1986: David Funchess, Vietnam War veteran

Add comment April 22nd, 2020 Headsman

On this date in 1986, Vietnam War veteran David Livingston Funchess was electrocuted in Florida for a double stabbing committed in the course of robbing a liquor store.

A late casualty, with his victims, of America’s imperial exertions in Indochina, Funchess had returned from the Vietnam War with leg wounds that earned him the Purple Heart, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eventually an addiction to self-medicating drug addiction.

“But for Vietnam, all indications were that he was well on his way to entering Florida’s middle class,” in the words of the late anti-death penalty attorney Michael Mello.*

In addition to the horrors of jungle combat, Funchess was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange, which has since been linked to a wide range of serious health problems in Vietnam veterans. Among the common symptoms among many Vietnam veterans has been neuropsychological damage.

After his return from Vietnam, Funchess was a deeply disturbed and confused young man. Compounding these problems, the medication he was receiving for his painful leg wounds eventually led him onto a debilitating heroin habit.

Understanding of PTSD — within the clinical, juridical, and public realms — advanced significantly during the course of 11-plus years from Funchess’s crime in December 1974 until his execution. In one of those perverse technicalities of the U.S. death penalty system, this issue was so little understood that it was not litigated at all at the time of his initial conviction … and by the time his appeals had run his course, it could only be litigated in the court of public opinion because its irrelevance to the 1970s trial court had procedurally disbarred it.

By the end, the toll of PTSD upon Funchess was being taken up by Vietnam veteran advocacy organizations, but it cut no ice with Governor Bob Graham, whose unilateral power of executive clemency was the man’s best hope of avoiding the electric chair.

* Mello wrote the anti-death penalty book Dead Wrong: A Death Row Lawyer Speaks Out Against Capital Punishment

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Disfavored Minorities,Electrocuted,Execution,Florida,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Soldiers,USA

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2005: Kenneth Boyd, the 1,000th modern execution in the U.S.

Add comment December 2nd, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 2005, Kenneth Lee Boyd died to lethal injection in Florida. His was the 1,000th execution conducted in the so-called “modern” death penalty era in the United States.

“I’d hate to be remembered as that,” Boyd said of his prospective milestone distinction. “I don’t like the idea of being picked as a number.”

He’d not needed a number to fight in Vietnam thirty-odd years before: he volunteered, and worked heavy equipment under fire, which his attorneys would later argue made him a PTSD victim.

The victims of the PTSD victim were his estranged wife Julie Curry Boyd and Julie’s father Thomas Dillard Curry, both of whom he gunned down with a .357 magnum in the presence of his and Julie’s three children back in 1988. Then he called 911 with the report, “I’ve shot my wife and her father — come on and get me.” In his voluntary confession upon surrender to the responding officers, he invoked the ghost of his youth’s imperial war.

It was just like I was in Vietnam. I pulled the gun out and started shooting. I think I shot Dillard one time and he fell. Then I walked past him and into the kitchen and living room area. The whole time I was pointing and shooting. Then I saw another silhouette that I believe was Julie come out of the bedroom. I shot again, probably several times. Then I reloaded my gun. I dropped the empty shell casings onto the floor. As I reloaded, I heard someone groan, Julie I guess. I turned and aimed, shooting again. My only thoughts were to shoot my way out of the house. I kept pointing and shooting at anything that moved.

The press comments from people linked by kinship to this horror make heartbreaking reading. This excerpt is from the New York Times report:

As to the provision of justice, Marie Curry, who lost her husband and her daughter when Mr. Boyd shot them 17 years ago, said she was at a loss to provide any answers. “I really don’t know,” she said.

Mrs. Curry raised Mr. Boyd’s three sons, Christopher, Jamie, and Daniel, after their father was sent to prison for their mother’s murder. “It’s just a sad day. The bible says to forgive anyone that asks you, and I did,” she said, “But I can’t ever forget.”

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Execution,Lethal Injection,Milestones,Murder,North Carolina,USA

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1916: James Crozier, an Irishman in His Majesty’s service

11 comments February 27th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1916, a young soldier drugged with rum to the point of stupefaction was dragged to the stake and shot near the western front.

There are hooks on the post; we always do things thoroughly in the Rifles. He is hooked on like dead meat in a butcher’s shop. His eyes are bandaged – not that it really matters, for he is already blind. … A volley rings out — a nervous volley it is true, yet a volley. Before the fatal shots are fired I had called the battalion to attention. There is a pause, I wait. I see the medical officer examining the victim. He makes a sign, the subaltern strides forward, a single shot rings out. Life is now extinct. (quoted in Forgotten Soldiers: The Irishmen Shot at Dawn)

The Belfast youth — who may or may not have been underage; reports appear to vary on this point — enlisted in the 9th Royal Irish Rifles during the initial blush of wartime enthusiasm.

The service of these loyal units from both north and south while Ireland teetered on the brink of of civil war and some of its partisans treated with the Germans was naturally valorized by the crown.

[flv:http://www.executedtoday.com/video/Irish_World_War_I.flv 440 330]

They would experience the full measure of that war’s ample stock of horrors — including numerous executions to enforce military discipline.

Just a few months after 9th was shipped to France, Crozier was found wandering miles behind lines, unarmed and out of uniform, apparently shellshocked.

Events moved quickly from there; Crozier’s lackadaisical service record weighed against him, and it was decided to make an example of him.

Charged with carrying out the sentence* was Frank Crozier (no relation), who would attain some controversial postwar renown. In his memoirs, he recalled the pathos of James Crozier’s fate.

He was no rotter deserving* to die like that. He was merely fragile. He had volunteered to fight for his country … at the dictates of his own young heart. He failed. And for that failure he was condemned to die — and he did at the hands of his friends, his brothers, with the approval of his church.

Eventually, the British government came to agree.


Crozier’s posthumous pardon, from his family genealogy. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry is here.

* According to Timothy Bowman, an officer of the 9th Royal Irish Rifles convicted on the same offense received a free pardon days after James Crozier’s conviction, to the consternation of the rank and file.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Death Penalty,England,Execution,France,History,Ireland,Military Crimes,Posthumous Exonerations,Shot,Soldiers,Wartime Executions

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