21 April 1992 – Robert Alton Harris
The gas chamber marked California’s return to the death penalty in 1992 – the first execution for over 25 years and certainly since the sentence was reinstated in 1976.
It was the dubious honour of callous killer Robert Alton Harris to christen the noxious enclosure, after he was found guilty of the senseless murder of two young lads.
Descent into hell
There’s a school of thought that believes psychopaths are born with killer tendencies. But it’s nurture that ultimately morphs those tendencies into full-blown depravity. If that is the case, then Harris didn’t have a hope in hell. Even in the womb he was a victim, having been born three months premature after his mum got kicked in the stomach by his surly dad.
By the age of two, he’d suffered a broken jaw at the hands of his nutter of a dad. And he’d be forced to run outside and hide within 30 minutes, or his dad vowed to shoot his children down. So was it any wonder his destiny was to descend into killer?
Eats, shoots and leaves
And so to the murder; Harris abducted two 16-year-old boys who worked at a fast-food outlet, along with his brother Daniel. He then proceeded to persecute them before burying a bullet in both their brains. He then calmly finished off the burgers he’d stolen off them.
The brother had no hand in the murders, however later that day the two of them did do a bank over. But the real clincher was that Harris had already done time for manslaughter. His original crime had been deemed manslaughter, because he heaped his defence on the fact that he’d been protecting a woman against her husband. Of course, that didn’t explain why the first victim was beaten to death as well as doused in lighter fluid in an attempt to set him alight. Harris bizarrely even cut the victim’s hair off.
The fact that Harris had previous meant that his card was marked. As a result, the punishment was death. He was sent to the gas chamber and poisoned to death.
Of all the profundities Harris could have reserved for his last words on this mortal coil, he plumped for a quote from that seminal film, ‘Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey’: “You may be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you’ll dance with the Reaper”.