Saturday, July 14, 2007

June 26, 2007

...No joke...

Last Meal: Knight had a final meal request of fried pork chops and chicken, garlic toast and ice cream.

The skinny: Knight was executed for abducting and killing an Amarillo-area couple almost 16 years ago.

More skinny: When the doomed couple returned from work to their Amarillo home, they were met by Knight and accomplice Robert Bradfield, who locked them in the basement. The next day, the criminals drove around in the the couple's vehicles attempting to obtain money.

That night, they bound, gagged, and blindfolded the couple, forced them into their own van, and drove them to a location in the country. Knight made them get out of the van and kneel, and then he shot he shot each of them in the back of the head. He dragged their bodies into a ditch on the side of the road and returned to his trailer house, next door to the victims, and went to sleep.

During an investigation into the couple's disappearance, law enforcement officers questioned Knight, who confessed and led the officers to the location of the victims’ bodies.

Accomplice Bradfield is serving a pair of life sentences.

Knight said he was young and immature, drunk and high on drugs and didn't remember much about the slayings. The victims had complained to him about loud music and loud cars. "I regret so much because they were such good people," said Knight, who grew up in Slidell, La., and was known in prison as the "Insane Cajun."

The joke contest: Knight's told prison officials Tuesday when he arrived at the death house he received as many as 1,300 jokes by mail and from a friend who had set up an Internet site for him that was dubbed "Dead Man Laughing." The effort was intended to boost the morale on Texas' death row, he said.

"I don't think his point was to trivialize it," said his attorney, Paul Mansur, who met with Knight last week. "They've had 17 executions and we're in the 25th week of the year. They see these people go and these are people they know and communicate with. They have a camaraderie together. So it's really just for them."

Up until the final hours before his execution, Knight told prison officials he still planned to deliver a joke, but would not tell them what he planned to say. He said he narrowed the list down and ran a few finalists past his death row buddies to pick which one they liked the best and would deliver during his final statement.

He said his humor effort was intended to boost the spirits of his fellow condemned inmates. “A little bit of levity is needed,” Knight said of the mood on death row. “And it seems to be working. I just want to go out laughing. I’m not trying to disrespect anyone. I know I’m not innocent.”

Although Knight insisted the Dead Man Laughing campaign should not be interpreted as a lack of remorse, some people disagreed. They said his actions are as indefensible as his crime. "It's not a funny occasion," said victim's rights advocate Andy Kahan. "I don't think he'd find it funny if the state decided to pump in 'Another One Bites the Dust' or 'Hit the Road, Jack.' I don't think he'd find that funny either."

Last words and such: "I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That's the biggest joke. I deserve this." His voice wavering and appearing to hold back tears, he thanked God for his friends and made a plea on behalf of fellow inmates he said were innocent. "And the other joke is that I am not Patrick Bryan Knight and y'all can't stop this execution now. Go ahead. I'm finished."

Texas prison officials disputed Knight's identity claim, insisting they used fingerprints to ensure the inmate was Knight. "This evening's execution brought an end to an almost 16-year nightmare for a family," Randall County Sheriff Joel W. Richardson, said. "Patrick Knight started that nightmare. "[The victims] will not be brought back because of anything that happened here tonight, but Patrick Knight certainly won't be able to do this to anybody else again... And despite all the hype about his joke, it turns out he's not much of a comedian. He's simply an executed cold-blooded killer."

Factoids: Knight was the...

28th murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1085th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
18th murderer executed in Texas in 2007
397th murderer executed in Texas since 1976