HUNTSVILLE, Texas - Condemned prisoner Patrick Knight was executed Tuesday evening for the deaths of an Amarillo-area couple without delivering on a promise to tell a joke in his final statement.
Patrick Knight has been soliciting jokes in the mail and on a Web site, sometimes receiving as many as 20 a day, saying his humor was intended to raise the spirits of other inmates. He said he received as many as 1,300 proposals.
But when the moment came, Knight thanked God for his friends and asked for help for innocent men on death row. He named several he said were innocent. His voice shaking and nearly in tears, he said, "Not all of us are innocent, but those are.''
After expressing love to some friends, he said, "I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That's the biggest joke. I deserve this.''
"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.''
Nine minutes later at 6:21 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
Prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons disputed Knight's mistaken identity claim.
"We fingerprint them when they come over,'' she said.
Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson, who watched Knight die, said the joke plan seemed to be a ploy by Knight to draw attention to himself.
"Despite all the hype about his joke, it turns out he's not much of a comedian,'' he said. "He's simply an executed cold-blooded killer.''
Knight was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of Walter Werner, 58, and his wife, Mary Ann, 56. Knight lived in a trailer next door to the couple's home just outside Amarillo.
When the Werners arrived home Aug. 26, 1991, they found Knight and a friend, Robert Bradfield, waiting inside for them. The two men held the couple captive in their basement through the next day, then bound, gagged and blindfolded them. They drove the victims several miles away and shot each in the head.
At the time of the slayings, Knight said, he was immature and drunk and high on drugs. He said he does not remember much about killing the Werners, who had complained about his 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.''
Bradfield, who was 19 at the time, was sentenced to life in prison.
Two other executions also took place Tuesday.
In Oklahoma, authorities executed a terminally ill man who, according to his lawyer, has been told by doctors he likely would die of cancer within six months anyway. Death penalty opponents have called the execution of two-time killer Jimmy Dale Bland pointless, while prosecutors have said Bland's health was no reason to show him mercy.
Bland died at 6:19 p.m., said Oklahoma Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie.
In Georgia, John Hightower was executed by lethal injection for the 1987 slayings of his wife and two stepdaughters. He was pronounced dead at 7:59 p.m. It was the state's first execution in two years.
Earlier Tuesday, he recorded a statement for prison officials in which he apologized for his crime and said he loved his wife then and still does.