Cancer Patient, “Joker” Executed in U.S.

DALLAS – Three U.S. states executed convicted killers by lethal injection on Tuesday, including one who was dying of cancer and another who offered some gallows humor by cracking a couple of jokes in his last statement. Opponents of the death penalty said Oklahoma’s execution of cancer sufferer Jimmy Bland seemed pointless. Oklahoma justice officials had said beforehand that his illness did not absolve him of his crime.

“It is difficult to understand the state’s interest in putting someone to death when he is going to be dead in six months anyway. It seems to border on mindless retribution,” said David Elliot, spokesman for the Washington-based National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Bland, 49, was sentenced to death for the murder of Doyle Windle Rains, whom he shot in the back of the head during an apparent quarrel in 1996.

His lawyer had unsuccessfully filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court to get the execution halted on the grounds that it was “cruel and unusual punishment.” Bland had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for the cancer which was rapidly spreading throughout his body. He was the second inmate executed in Oklahoma this year. In Texas, Patrick Knight went to his death by telling a couple of jokes — as he had promised. “Death has set me free. That’s the biggest joke,” Knight, 39, said in his last statement.

“And the other joke is I am not Patrick Bryan Knight and ya’ll can stop this execution now,” he added.

He had been convicted of the abduction and murder of a couple who were his neighbors during a robbery attempt in 1991. He took the bound couple into the countryside near the Texas panhandle town of Amarillo and shot each of them in the back of the head.