John Spenkelink Florida Execution

John Spenkelink - Florida

John Spenkelink was executed by the State of Florida for a murder committed during a robbery. According to court documents John Spenkelink had escaped from a prison in California when he made his way to Florida. John Spenkelink would get into an argument with the victim. left and came back with a gun which he used to shoot the victim in the back killing him. John Spenkelink would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. John Spenkelink would be executed by electric chair on May 25, 1979

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The state of Florida trussed. John Arthur Spenkelink immobile in the electric chair this Morning, dropped a black leather mask over his face and electrocuted him.

“He simply looked at us and he looked terrified,” said Kris Rebillot, a reporter who wag one of 32 persons who watched through a window from an adjoining room. “It was just a wide, wide, wide stare.”

The execution was carried out a few hours after the last plea in an extended legal battle. It was the first execution in the United States since Gary Mark Gilmore faced a Utah firing squad voluntarily on Jan. 16, 1977, and the first since 1967 in which the condemned person was put to death against his will.

John Spenkelink made no final statement. The prison authorities said that had been his wish.

The prisoner was given three surges of electricity, The first, 2,500 volts, was administered at 10:12 A.M. Mr. Spenkelink jerked in the chair and one hand clenched into a fist. •

Then came the second, and the third, by two executioners in black hoods. A doctor stepped forward after the third surge, pulled up the prisoner’s T‐shirt and applied a stethoscope to Mr. Spenke1 ink’s chest..

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He then checked for a pulse. Then he stepped back. He returned to the prisoner and examined him once more, and backed away again. A third time, at 10:18, he checked the prisoner for a pulse, examined Mr. Spenkelink’s eyes with pocket pen‐flashlight, and nodded to the warden that the prisoner was dead.

John Spenkelink, who was 30 years old, was convicted in 1973 of the killing of fellow drifter, Joseph Syzmankiewicz, 95.

Reporters here today were told by the Rev. Tom Feamster, an Episcopal priest who was the last to speak with Mr. Spenkelink, that the condemned man had told him, “Man is what he chooses to be; he chooses that for himself.”

“But the last thing that he said to me was that he loved me,” the burly, 6‐foot‐6 minister said, “and the last thing I said to him was that I loved him.”

He also quoted Mr. Spenkelink as saying, “If this comes down, I hope that some good will come of it.” Between 6 and 6:30 A.M. Mr. Spenkelink spoke with his mother, Lois, who had ‘made several attempts personally to gain a stay or clemency for her son.

The 1 A.M. execution hour was set early today after the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans dissolved a stay granted earlier 1 by a Federal district judge.

That stay, along with another granted separately by Justice Thurgood Marshall 1 of the Supreme Court, and subsequently dissolved by the full Court, reprieved Mr. Spenkelink from his original execution date, 7 A.M. Monday. Today attorneys for Mr. Spenkelink tried again to gain another stay.

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Ramsey Clark, the former Attorney General, had taken a role in the case. According to Henry Schwartzschild, project director of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the organizations that had fought to save Mr. Spenkelink, Mr. Clark went by car from New York to Washington after he was unable to charter an airplane to deliver by hand a‐petition to the Supreme Court for a renewed stay.

Mr. Clark i arriving shortly before A.M., handed the petition to the clerk of the court, but a hurried poll of eight of the nine Justices rejected a new stay by vote of 6 to 2, with Justice Harry A. Blackmun not participating. Justices Marshall and William J. Brennan Jr. reportedly favored a new stay.

The execution was, by custom, delayed a few mimites past the scheduled hour, lest word of a reprieve come too late. It did not come at all.

Outside the prison, opponents of the death penalty, some of whom had been here since Monday, grew restive, some hysterical, as the time of execution came and passed. Some prayed; some wept; others screamed epithets and obscenities as a hearse left the prison just before 11 A.M. with the body. Earlier, they had chanted, “Government murder! Government murder!”

State Representative Andy Johnson of Jacksonville was among those who witnessed the execution today. Yesterday he introduced a bill to end executions in Florida.

Mr. Johnson termed the execution “barbaric” and “sickening,” telling reporters assembled under a blazing sun in

a cow pasture in front of the prison corn. plex: “We saw a man Sizzle today, and if you watched close, you could see him sizzle again, and sizzle again.” Minutes later, he was confronted by an unidentified man who shouted that his son had been murdered and death was the only appropriate penalty. .

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Proponents of the death penalty had also encamped at the prison, some in a mobile home with a silver coffin mounted on its top and a placard urging, “Go, Sparky” — the three‐legged electric chairhere.

Those who witnessed the execution included a‐pool of nine ‘persons representing news‐gathering organizations. None spoke as graphically as Mr. Johnson had of what they had seen. “It was quicker than I expected, and it was less grvesome,” said Kris Kebillot, the 28‐year‐old television reporter. Unlike other such cases, the question of televising the Spenkelink execution was never raised.

H.G. Davis, an editorial writer for The Gainesville Sun, said he was not prepared for the sudden sight of Mr. Spinkelink behind the ‘glass window that gave on the death chamber.

https://www.nytimes.com/1979/05/26/archives/florida-executes-killer-as-plea-fails-spenkelink-electrocuted-is.html

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