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(December 4, 1940 - January 17, 1977) U.S.A.

Gary Gilmore



Gary Mark Gilmore was a criminal who gained international notoriety for demanding the implementation of his death sentence for two murders he committed in Utah. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a new series of death penalty statutes in the 1976 decision Gregg v. Georgia , he became the first person in almost ten years to be executed in the United States. These new statutes avoided the problems under the 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia , which had resulted in earlier death penalty statutes being deemed as "cruel and unusual" punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. Gilmore was executed by firing squad in 1977. His life and execution was the subject of the 1979 nonfiction novel The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, and 1982 TV film of the novel starring Tommy Lee Jones as Gilmore.

Gary Mark Gilmore was born in McCamey, Texas, the second of four sons, to Frank and Bessie Gilmore. Gary was born while they were living in Texas under the pseudonym of Coffman to avoid the law. Frank christened his son Faye Robert Coffman, but once they left Texas, Bessie changed it to Gary Mark. This name change proved to be a sore point years later. Frank's mother Fay kept the original "Faye Coffman" birth certificate, and when Gary found it two decades later, he assumed he must be either illegitimate or someone else's son. He seized on this as the reason that he and his father never got along; he became very upset and walked out on his mother when she tried to explain the name change to him.

In 1952, the Gilmore family settled in Portland, Oregon. As an adolescent, Gary began engaging in petty crime. Although Gilmore had an IQ test score of 133, gained high scores on both aptitude and achievement tests, and showed artistic talent, he dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. He ran away from home with a friend to Texas, returning to Portland after several months. At the age of 14, he started a small car theft ring with friends, which resulted in his first arrest.

Gary GilmoreIn 1962, Gilmore was arrested again and sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary for armed robbery and assault. He faced assault and armed robbery charges again in 1964, and was given a 15-year prison sentence as a habitual offender. A prison psychiatrist diagnosed him with antisocial personality disorder with intermittent psychotic decompensation. He was granted conditional release in 1972 to live weekdays in a halfway house in Eugene, Oregon, and study art at a community college. Gilmore never registered and, within a month, he was arrested and convicted of armed robbery.

Due to his violent behavior in prison, Gilmore was transferred in 1975 from Oregon to the federal prison in Marion, Illinois, at the time a maximum security facility. Gilmore was conditionally paroled in April 1976 and went to Provo, Utah, to live with a distant cousin, Brenda Nicol, who tried to help him find work. Gilmore worked briefly at his uncle Vern Damico's shoe repair store and then for an insulation company, but he soon returned to his previous lifestyle of stealing, drinking, and getting into fights. Gilmore, then 35, had a relationship with Nicole Baker, a 19-year-old widow and divorcee who had two young children. The relationship was at first casual, but soon became intense and strained due to Gilmore's aggressive behavior and pressure from Baker's family to stop her seeing him.

On the evening of July 19, 1976, Gilmore robbed and murdered Max Jensen, a gas station employee in Orem, Utah. The next evening, he robbed and murdered Bennie Bushnell, a motel manager in Provo. Although both men had complied with his demands, he murdered each of them. Gilmore's murder trial began at the Provo courthouse on October 5, 1976 and lasted two days. Peter Arroyo, a motel guest, testified that he saw Gilmore in the motel registration office that night. After taking the money, Gilmore allegedly ordered Bushnell to lie down on the floor and then shot him.

Against his express wishes, Gilmore received several stays of execution through the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The last of these occurred just hours before the re-scheduled execution date of January 17. That stay was overturned at 7:30 AM, and the execution was allowed to proceed as planned. During the time Gilmore was on death row awaiting his execution, he attempted suicide twice; the first time on November 16 after the first stay was issued, and again one month later on December 16.

Gilmore was executed on January 17, 1977, at 8:07 a.m. by firing squad at Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah.


Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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