In “Joe Arridy was the happiest man on death row,” Denver’s Westword News retells the story of Joe Arridy, a man with a 46 IQ, who falsely confessed to—and was later executed for—a murder he clearly didn’t commit:
But on the last day, the day of ice cream — January 6, 1939 — the train’s busy schedule was interrupted by a farewell visit from Joe’s mother, aunt, cousin and fourteen-year-old sister. His mother shuddered and sobbed. Dry-eyed and perplexed, Joe stared at her. Then the women left, and Joe returned to his train.
That evening, the warden, Roy Best, and the prison chaplain, Father Albert Schaller, dropped in to prepare Arridy for the journey ahead. Minutes earlier, the Colorado Supreme Court had denied a final petition for a stay of execution by a vote of four to three, and Governor Teller Ammons had ordered Best to proceed with the sentence. Father Schaller told Arridy that he would have to give up his train, but he’d be swapping it for a golden harp.
That was fine with Joe. He doled out his favorite possessions on the spot: the train to another prisoner, a shiny tin plate to Warden Best, a toy auto to the warden’s nephew.
Think the United States doesn’t execute people with intellectual disabilities anymore? Wrong. Just last week Texas gave a lethal injection to a man with a 61 IQ, Marvin Wilson.
Photo: Courtesy Westword News