Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

Jesse Bishop
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Jesse Bishop - A killer smiles at his own execution

Daily Mail 23rd October 1979

A SMILE flickered across the face of Jesse Bishop as the cyanide pellets dropped into the acid. Then the killer took deep gulps of air, as though deliberately trying to inhale the
deadly fumes.

He took nine minutes to die.   But he was 'like an iceman' and 'as tough as nails to the end,' according to prison director Charles Wolff.

Bishop, a professional gunman who bragged about his life of fancy cars,   beautiful  women   and   drugs, had  spurned  all  attempts  to  save him.

His death in the gas chamber at Carson City, Nevada, made him the second man to be executed in the United States this year and the third since the Supreme Court ordered stricter capital punishment laws in 1972

His final words to Mr Wolff were: 'This is one more step down the road of life that I've been heading for all my life.'

Before his execution, 47-year-old Bishop had a last meal of steak, sent his compliments to the cook and refused to pick up the telephone which had been provided so that he could make a last-minute appeal.


Dressed in denim trousers, white shirt and white socks, the man whom psychiatrists pronounced sane enough to die was strapped into the chair.

A stethoscope was taped to his chest. This was attached to a long tube which extended from the gas chamber, so a doctor could tell when he was dead.

The heavy metal door to the ten foot by ten foot death chamber, which had not been used for 18 years, clanged shut. Three volunteer guards flicked switches which activated a device to drop dozens of cyanide tablets into a black vat beneath Bishop's chair filled with diluted sulphuric acid.

During the execution his body twitched, his head rose and fell several times to his chest, his eyes closed and his mouth fell open. After several minutes, his body was motionless, except for an occasional shudder.

Outside the prison, about 75 opponents of the death penalty held a candlelight vigil. They recited the Lord's prayer when they learned Bishop was dead.
But H miles away in Carson City, it was business as usual in the casinos.
Bishop, who had spent a total of 20 years in prison gunned down newlywed David Ballard. The bridegroom had left his celebration champagne to try to stop Bishop robbing a Las Vegas casino.

But shortly , after the execution, Nevada District Judge Paul Goldman, one of the three who sentenced Bishop to death, said he had spoken to the killer in August. Bishop told him he had been involved in 18 contract killings, apparently involving drugs.

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