January 16, 2012

"Gary Gilmore" by Edward Capote



Born Dec. 4, 1940.  Executed and cremated Jan. 17, 1977. Ashes scattered over Spanish Fork, Utah.
Link: Find a Grave 



Few recall my crimes but many remember my execution. It was a turkey shoot. They took me to an old cannery behind the prison they used as a death house. Strapped me to a chair, with a wall of sandbags placed behind to absorb the bullets. Five gunmen, local police, hid behind a curtain with holes cut for them to poke their rifles through.

"Turkey shoot"? Old frontier custom. Tie a turkey to a stake and the first man to knock his head off gets the prize. After they whacked JFK, that’s how the shooters talked about it among themselves. They called it a turkey shoot. 

Except in my case anybody who knew somebody was going to get an invite to see it.  Prison officials were flooded with calls from people volunteering to shoot me. The job paid $125. My lawyer negotiated for book and movie rights and there was an outcry to make the execution public. All three networks wanted to film the event and said if they didn’t get permission they’d do it from a dirigible. 

Saturday Night Live prepared a special Christmas song. I liked some of the lines: 
In the meadow, we can build a snowman
One with Gary Gilmore packed inside
We'll say "Are you dead yet?" He'll say "No, man"
But we'll wait out the frostbite till he dies 

I found a song of my own on the wall of the prison crapper:

Deep in my dungeon I welcome you here
Deep in my dungeon I worship your fear
Deep in my dungeon I dwell.
I do not know if I wish you well.

And my last words as the gunmen pulled their hammers back--I said, “Let’s do it”? Those words now a slogan to sell basketball shoes.