ON THIS DAY    17 January      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1977: Gilmore executed by firing squad

AUDIO : Killer dies 'with dignity'

Gary Gilmore, the convicted murderer, was executed today by firing squad in the Utah state prison in Salt Lake City.

This is the first execution to have been carried out in the United States for almost 10 years.

Gilmore, 36, was sentenced to death for the murder in 1976 of a motel clerk in Provo, Utah.

An appeals court in Denver overturned a restraining order on the execution in the early hours of this morning.


"Let's do it"

Gary Gilmore before being executed

In his closing words, one of the judges emphasised that Mr Gilmore should take responsibility for insisting that his own execution go ahead.

"Among other people who have rights, Mr Gilmore has his own. If an error is being made and the execution goes forward, he brought that on himself," said Judge Lewis.

Within an hour of the ruling Gary Gilmore was dead. The execution took place in a converted prison cannery in front of around 20 witnesses at 0806 local time.

After the legal order had been read, Gilmore's last words were: "Let's do it."

A hood was placed over his head, a target attached to his t-shirt, and the five-man firing squad took aim and shot from behind a screen.

So that none of his executioners could be sure they had fired a mortal round, one of the rifles was loaded with a blank.

Laverne Damico, Gilmore's uncle and witness at the scene, said his nephew "died like he wanted to die, with dignity. He got his wish."

Gilmore's body was taken to the University of Utah Medical Center where his organs will be used for medical research.

In Context
Gilmore was sentenced to death for the murder of a motel manager in Provo, Utah on 20 July 1976.

He was also charged with killing a service station attendant in Orem, Utah, the previous day, but that case never went to trial.

Two aspects of the story make it exceptional. Firstly, the death penalty had been controversially reinstated in the United States in 1976 and Gilmore was the first prisoner to be executed under the new law. Secondly, Gilmore fought the justice system to ensure he would be executed quickly. Gilmore had already spent 18 of his last 21 years in jail.

The journey was relatively short from sentence to execution compared to most US death row inmates. Nevertheless Gilmore twice attempted suicide in prison while he waited, and the execution was stayed three times.

Two people received Gilmore's corneas within hours of his death - which inspired punk band the Adverts' Top 20 hit "Gary Gilmore's Eyes".

Gilmore's final words were immortalised in T-shirts with "Let's Do It" written on it.

On 2 December 2005, Kenneth Boyd, a convicted killer, became the 1000th person to be executed in the US since the death penalty was reintroduced.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |