26 June 2007 – Patrick Knight
If you were on death row, we’re sure the last thing you’d feel like doing was laughing. Not so our next subject for execution – Patrick Knight, who kicked off a joke fest to ensure he went out with a smile on his face.
This mission statement earned the Texan the nickname ‘Dead Man Laughing’. He was on the hunt for a joke he could use in his last, parting speech.
Of course, there was furore around the competition – after all it was seen as disrespectful. This was a man who’d been sentenced to death for robbery and cold-blooded murder. It was hardly a laughing matter. Some even went as far as to say Knight was doing it to go out in a blaze of glory. But Knight professed it was merely a means by which inmates could while away the hours, days even years of waiting for the inevitable.
This may sound dysfunctional to some, the roots of which lay in his childhood perhaps. After all, this was not Knight’s first dalliance with death. Apparently he’d ended up near-drowned at the bottom of a pool with his tricycle on top of him at the young age of four. Couple that with alcoholism, which was rife in his family and it’s no wonder he started to display touches of behavioural problems before he’d even reached double figures.
Given this extraordinary family life, it came as no surprise that his mum and grandmother completely abandoned him when it came to his appeal, even going so far as to move away from the area and out of reach.
Maybe they were justified – their child was a robber and a murderer, who’d planted bullets in his victims’ brains merely for turning up at their own home mid-burglary.
However, this sudden departure of his ‘loved’ ones meant Knight had no adequate representation to combat the premise that he was a danger to society. So when he appealed against his penalty, there was no strong case upon which to pin a lighter sentence.
As a result, death remained in place, so Knight sought other ways to play out the last episode of his bleak existence. Hence the joke contest went stellar on MySpace – yep, even death row isn’t safe from the reaches of social networking.
Bizarrely though, Knight chose not to use one of the jokes in the run-up to his execution. Instead, he saved his final speech for the following sentiment: ‘Death has set me free; that’s the biggest joke. I deserve this’, before quipping that they were executing the wrong bloke, but that it was too late.
It was too late alright. Knight’s lights were turned out on this day a mere year ago, after he was pumped full of lethal fluids, aged 39.