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The Voice of Paranoia: Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2009

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The facts are these: some time on the early morning of July 20, 1976, Gary Gilmore, barely three months after his release from a twelveyear sentence for armed robbery served in the federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, drove into a gas station in Provo, Utah, robbed Max Jensen, the station attendant, and demanded that he lie facedown on the ground. Gilmore then fired twice into Jensen's head at point-blank range with an automatic pistol; Jensen died immediately. In the evening, fourteen or fifteen hours after the first murder, Gilmore drove into a motel situated next door to the house of his relatives, Vern and Ida Damico, who had given Gilmore refuge and found him a job upon his release from prison. Gilmore demanded money from Benny Bushnell, the owner of the motel, asked him to lie face-down on the floor, and then pumped one bullet into his head; Gilmore had intended to shoot him twice, but his gun jammed, and it was several hours before Bushnell would die of his wounds. One day later, Gilmore was arrested for the murder of Benny Bushnell. He was tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death: his choice of death was by firing squad. Though his mother and the American Civil Liberties Union attempted to block the execution, Gilmore demanded that the state of Utah carry out the sentence. On January 17, 1977, he was shot to death by a team of four handpicked riflemen, in the first public execution to have taken place in the United States in over a decade.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1992

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