Gary Gilmore
Gary Mark Gilmore was an American criminal, and murderer, who gained international notoriety for demanding that his own death sentence be fulfilled following two murders he committed in Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

. He became the first person executed in the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a new series of death penalty statutes in the 1976 decision Gregg v. Georgia
Gregg v. Georgia
Gregg v. Georgia, Proffitt v. Florida, Jurek v. Texas, Woodson v. North Carolina, and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 153 , reaffirmed the United States Supreme Court's acceptance of the use of the death penalty in the United States, upholding, in particular, the death sentence imposed on Troy Leon...

 (these new statutes avoiding the problems that had led earlier death penalty statutes to be deemed unconstitutional in Furman v. Georgia
Furman v. Georgia
Furman v. Georgia, was a United States Supreme Court decision that ruled on the requirement for a degree of consistency in the application of the death penalty. The case led to a de facto moratorium on capital punishment throughout the United States, which came to an end when Gregg v. Georgia was...

). Gilmore was executed by firing squad in 1977.


Gilmore was born in a hospital in McCamey, Texas
McCamey, Texas
McCamey is a city in Upton County, Texas, United States. The population was 1,805 at the 2000 census. The Texas legislature has declared McCamey "the Wind Energy Capital of Texas" because of the many wind farms that have been built in the area. Its history, however, is primarily that of an oil...

 on December 4, 1940, the second son of Frank and Bessie Gilmore. Frank Gilmore Sr. was an alcoholic con man who sold fake magazine subscriptions. He'd married Bessie, a Mormon outcast from Provo, Utah, on a whim, in Sacramento, California. Frank had many wives and families before her, none of whom he cared about or supported. They had a son, Frank Jr., and then Gary came along while they were wandering aimlessly through Texas under the pseudonym of Coffman to avoid the law. Frank christened him Faye Robert Coffman, which Bessie quickly changed to Gary, once they left Texas. However, this birth certificate proved to be a sore spot years later (Gilmore's mother had kept his original birth certificate). Many years later, in the early 1960s, upon finding the birth certificate that stated his name was "Faye Robert Coffman", Gilmore thought that he had been illegitimate or someone else's son, felt that it was the reason he and his father did not ever get along, and he was very upset and walked out on his mother, Bessie, when she tried to explain to him.

The family relocated throughout the Western United States
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 during his childhood, and his father supported the family by selling fake magazine subscriptions. Gilmore had a troubled relationship with his father, whom his brother Mikal
Mikal Gilmore
Mikal Gilmore is an American writer. He was born "Michael Gilmore," but later changed the spelling of his name.-Life & career:Gilmore was born on February 9, 1951 in Portland, Oregon to Frank and Bessie Gilmore....

 described as a "cruel and unreasonable man." Frank Gilmore's mother claimed that Frank was the illegitimate son of magician Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer noted for his sensational escape acts...

. Mikal has said he believes the story is false, however stated that his father and mother believed this. It is still not sure whether this story is true or not, because Fay (Frank Gilmore's mother) who was from Sacramento, told Bessie about Frank's father, whom she had a short relationship with, mentioned he was a famous magician who had stopped into town, and so Bessie went to the library to research it and came up to the conclusion that Harry Houdini had been Frank's father. However, Houdini was only sixteen years old in 1890, the year of Frank Gilmore's birth. Furthermore, he did not start his career as a magician until the following year.

Frank Gilmore, Sr. was strict and quick to anger. Often, he would whip Gary and Frank, Jr. with a razor strop or a belt for little or no reason. Less often, he would beat his wife, Bessie. As he got older, he mellowed some, and the youngest Gilmore son, Mikal, reported in his book Shot In The Heart
Shot in the Heart
Shot in the Heart is a memoir written by Mikal Gilmore, then a senior contributing editor at Rolling Stone, about his tumultuous childhood in a dysfunctional family, and his brother Gary Gilmore's eventual execution by firing squad in 1977 for a convenience store murder he committed in Provo,...

, that Frank whipped him only one time, and he never did it again after his son told him "I hate you", which made him sad. But with Gary, Frank, Jr., and sometimes the third son, Gaylen, he would beat them with a whip, sometimes badly. In addition, Frank and Bessie would argue loudly and call each other hateful names. Frank would anger Bessie by calling Brigham Young
Brigham Young
Brigham Young was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and a settler of the Western United States. He was the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1847 until his death in 1877, he founded Salt Lake City, and he served as the first governor of the Utah...

, the second president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, "Bring'Em Young" and call her crazy, and then Bessie would retaliate saying maybe she was crazy and would kill him one night. Bessie also called him a "Cat-licker", which was supposed to be an epithet for "Catholic", because Frank was Catholic. This went on and on for the longest time, and certainly it led to a lot of emotional problems in all the four Gilmore kids.

The Gilmore family settled in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

 in 1952. Gilmore began engaging in petty crime as an adolescent, with offenses ranging from shoplifting
Shoplifting is theft of goods from a retail establishment. It is one of the most common property crimes dealt with by police and courts....

, car theft and assault
In law, assault is a crime causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more...

 and battery
Battery (crime)
Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

. Although Gilmore had an IQ of 133, had high scores on both scholastic and academic tests, and clear artistic skills, he dropped out of high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

 in the ninth grade. He ran away from home with a friend to Texas, returning to Portland after several months.

By the age of 14, Gilmore started a small car theft ring with other friends, resulting in his first arrest. He was released to his father with a warning. Two weeks later he was back in court on another car theft charge. The court remanded him, at age 14, to the MacLaren Reform School for Boys
MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility
MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility is a correctional facility in Woodburn, Oregon, United States. It is administered by the Oregon Youth Authority...

 in Oregon, from which he was released the following year. He was sent to Oregon State Correctional Institution on another car theft charge in 1960, and was released later that year. In the meantime, in 1961, Frank, Sr., was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He died a few months later, at the end of June 1962. Gary was broken up over his father's death, even though Frank had abused him physically. Gilmore was in jail in Portland, when he heard from a jailer that his father had died, and he tried to kill himself by cutting his wrist.

In 1962, Gilmore was arrested and sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary
Oregon State Penitentiary
Oregon State Penitentiary , the first state prison in Oregon, United States, was originally located in Portland in 1851. In 1866 it was moved to a site in Salem and enclosed by a reinforced concrete wall averaging in height...

 for armed robbery and assault
In law, assault is a crime causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more...

. He faced assault and armed robbery charges again in 1964, and was given a 15-year prison sentence as a habitual offender
Habitual offender
A habitual offender is a person who has repeatedly committed the same crime. Various state and jurisdictions may have laws targeting habitual offenders, and specifically providing for enhanced or exemplary punishments or other sanctions...

. He was granted conditional release in 1972 to live in a halfway house
Halfway house
The purpose of a halfway house, also called a recovery house or sober house, is generally to allow people to begin the process of reintegration with society, while still providing monitoring and support; this is generally believed to reduce the risk of recidivism or relapse when compared to a...

 in Eugene, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon
Eugene is the second largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Lane County. It is located at the south end of the Willamette Valley, at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers, about east of the Oregon Coast.As of the 2010 U.S...

 on weekdays, and study art at a community college
Community college
A community college is a type of educational institution. The term can have different meanings in different countries.-Australia:Community colleges carry on the tradition of adult education, which was established in Australia around mid 19th century when evening classes were held to help adults...

. Gilmore never registered, and within a month he was arrested and convicted of armed robbery. Owing to his violent behavior in prison, he was transferred from Oregon to the maximum security federal prison in Marion, Illinois
United States Penitentiary, Marion
The United States Penitentiary is a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility located in Southern Precinct, unincorporated Williamson County, Illinois. The facility is located south of Marion, from St. Louis, and from Chicago. It was built in 1963 to replace the Alcatraz prison in San Francisco, which...

 in 1975. He was conditionally paroled in April 1976 and went to Provo, Utah
Provo, Utah
Provo is the third largest city in the U.S. state of Utah, located about south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatch Front. Provo is the county seat of Utah County and lies between the cities of Orem to the north and Springville to the south...

 to live with a distant cousin, Brenda Nicol, who tried to help him find work. Gilmore worked briefly at his uncle Vern Damico's shoe store and for Spencer McGrath's insulation company, but he soon returned to his previous lifestyle of stealing, drinking, and getting into fights. Gilmore, then 35, met and had a romance with Nicole Baker, a 19-year-old widow and divorcee, with two young children. The relationship was at first casual, but soon became intense and strained owing to Gilmore's aggressive behavior and pressure from Baker's family to stop seeing him.


On the evening of July 19, 1976, Gilmore robbed and murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

ed Max Jensen, a Sinclair
Sinclair Oil
Sinclair Oil Corporation is an American petroleum corporation, founded by Harry F. Sinclair on May 1, 1916 as the Sinclair Oil & Refining Corporation by combining the assets of 11 small petroleum companies. Originally a New York corporation, Sinclair Oil reincorporated in Wyoming in 1976...

 gas station employee in Orem, Utah
Orem, Utah
Orem is a city in Utah County, Utah, United States, in the north-central part of the state. It is adjacent to Provo, Lindon, and Vineyard and is about south of Salt Lake City. Orem is one of the principal cities of the Provo-Orem, Utah Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Utah and...

. The next evening, he robbed and murdered Bennie Bushnell, a motel
A motor hotel, or motel for short, is a hotel designed for motorists, and usually has a parking area for motor vehicles...

 manager in Provo
Provo, Utah
Provo is the third largest city in the U.S. state of Utah, located about south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatch Front. Provo is the county seat of Utah County and lies between the cities of Orem to the north and Springville to the south...

. He murdered these people even though they complied with his demands. As he disposed of the .22 caliber pistol used in both killings, he accidentally shot himself in the hand, leaving a trail of blood from the gun all the way to the service garage where he had left his truck to be repaired shortly before the murder of Bushnell. Michael Simpson witnessed Gilmore hiding the gun in the bushes, seeing the blood and hearing on a police scanner of the shooting at the nearby motel, wrote down Gilmore's license number and called the police. Gilmore's cousin, Brenda, turned him in to police shortly after he called her asking for bandages and painkillers for the injury to his hand. Gilmore gave up without a fight as he was trying to drive out of Provo. He was charged with the murders of Bushnell and Jensen, although the latter case never went to trial, apparently because there were no eyewitnesses.


Gilmore's murder trial began at the Provo courthouse on October 5. Peter Arroyo, a motel guest, testified that he saw Gilmore in the motel registration office that night and that Gilmore robbed Bushnell by the cash register. After taking all the money, Gilmore was said to have ordered Bushnell to lie down on the floor and then to have shot him in cold blood. The next witness was Gerald F. Wilkes, a local FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

 expert, who testified that he found the shell casing at the crime scene which he compared to Gilmore's pistol that was left there. Gilmore's two court-appointed lawyers, Michael Esplin and Craig Snyder, surprised both the prosecutor Noall T. Wootton and Judge J. Robert Bullock by not cross-examining
In law, cross-examination is the interrogation of a witness called by one's opponent. It is preceded by direct examination and may be followed by a redirect .- Variations by Jurisdiction :In...

 the majority of the witnesses and offering no defense. Gilmore wanted to testify on his own behalf, but suddenly withdrew the request the following day. Both sides made closing argument
Closing argument
A closing argument, summation, or summing up is the concluding statement of each party's counsel reiterating the important arguments for the trier of fact, often the jury, in a court case. A closing argument occurs after the presentation of evidence...


On October 7, at 10:13 AM, the jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

 retired to consider the verdict. By mid-day, they returned with a guilty verdict. Later that day, the jury also unanimously recommended the death penalty because of special circumstances to the crime. At the time, Utah had two methods of execution — firing squad or hanging
Hanging is the lethal suspension of a person by a ligature. The Oxford English Dictionary states that hanging in this sense is "specifically to put to death by suspension by the neck", though it formerly also referred to crucifixion and death by impalement in which the body would remain...

 — so Bullock allowed Gilmore to choose between the two. Gilmore's reply was, "I'd prefer to be shot." The execution was set for November 15 at 8 a.m.

In November 1976, during a Board of Pardons hearing, Gilmore said, "They always want to get in on the act. I don't think they have ever really done anything effective in their lives. I would like them all — including that group of reverends and rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

s from Salt Lake City — to butt out. This is my life and this is my death. It's been sanctioned by the courts that I die and I accept that." Gilmore received several stays of execution, brought about by the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union is a U.S. non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." It works through litigation, legislation, and...

 (ACLU), the last of which occurred just hours before the re-scheduled execution date of January 17. That stay was overturned at 7:30 a.m. and the execution was allowed to proceed as planned. During the time Gilmore was on death row
Death row
Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution , even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.After individuals are found...

 awaiting his execution, he attempted suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 twice, the first time on November 16 as a result of the first stay issued, and again one month later. While incarcerated, Gilmore developed a deep dislike for two of his fellow inmates, convicted murderers and rapists
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

 Pierre Dale Selby and William Andrews, the "Hi-Fi Murderers
Hi-Fi Murders
The Hi-Fi murders were the brutal killings of three people during a robbery at a home audio store in Ogden, Utah, on April 22, 1974. Five people had been held hostage but two survived with severe injuries. All were bound and forced to drink corrosive drain cleaner. One victim had a pen kicked into...

". The two were executed for their crimes in 1987 and 1992, respectively.


Gary Gilmore was executed on January 17, 1977 at 8:07 a.m. by firing squad at Utah State Prison
Utah State Prison
Utah State Prison, or USP, is one of two prisons managed by the Utah Department of Corrections' Division of Institutional Operations. It is located in Draper, Utah, United States, about 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.-History:...

 in Draper, Utah
Draper, Utah
Draper is a city in Salt Lake and Utah Counties in the U.S. state of Utah, located about south of Salt Lake City along the Wasatch Front. Between 1990 and 2000 Draper was Utah's fastest-growing city over 5,000 people . Its population in 1990 was 7,143 and had grown to 25,220 by the 2000 census...

. The night before, Gilmore had requested an all-night gathering of friends and family at the prison mess hall. On the evening before his execution, he was served a last meal
Last meal
The last meal is a customary part of a condemned prisoner's last day. Often, the day of, or before, the appointed time of execution, the prisoner receives a last meal, as well as religious rites, if they desire. In the United States, inmates generally may not ask for an alcoholic drink...

 of steak, potatoes, milk and coffee and a six-pack of beer; he consumed only the milk and coffee. His uncle, Vern Damico, who attended the gathering later claimed to have smuggled in three small, 50-millilitre Jack Daniel's
Jack Daniel's
Jack Daniel's is a brand of sour mash Tennessee whiskey that is among the world's best-selling liquors. It is known for its square bottles and black label. As of November, 2007, one blogger was claiming that it was the best-selling whiskey in the world. It is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee by...

 whiskey shot bottles which Gilmore supposedly consumed. He was then taken to an abandoned cannery behind the prison which served as its death house. He was strapped to a chair, with a wall of sandbags placed behind him to absorb the bullet
A bullet is a projectile propelled by a firearm, sling, or air gun. Bullets do not normally contain explosives, but damage the intended target by impact and penetration...

s. Five gunmen, local police, stood concealed behind a curtain with five small holes cut for them to place their rifles through. When asked for any last words, Gilmore simply replied, "Let's do it!" The Rev. Thomas Meersman, the Roman Catholic prison chaplain, administered the last rites
Last Rites
The Last Rites are the very last prayers and ministrations given to many Christians before death. The last rites go by various names and include different practices in different Christian traditions...

 to Gilmore. After the prison physician cloaked him in a black hood, Gilmore uttered his last words to Father Meersman: "Dominus vobiscum" (Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, translation: "The Lord be with you.") Meersman replied, "Et cum spiritu tuo ("And with your spirit")

Gilmore had requested that, following his execution, his eyes be used for transplant purposes. Within hours of the execution, two people received his cornea
The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. Together with the lens, the cornea refracts light, with the cornea accounting for approximately two-thirds of the eye's total optical power. In humans, the refractive power of the cornea is...

s. Most of his other organs were used for transplants as well. His body was sent for an autopsy
An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy , autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present...

 and cremated
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

 later that day. The following day, his ashes were scattered from an airplane over Spanish Fork, Utah
Spanish Fork, Utah
Spanish Fork is a city in Utah County, Utah, United States. It is part of the Provo–Orem, Utah Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 31,497 as of the 2008 census estimate.-History:Spanish Fork was settled by LDS pioneers in 1851...


Cultural impact

As Gilmore was the first person in the United States executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976
Gregg v. Georgia
Gregg v. Georgia, Proffitt v. Florida, Jurek v. Texas, Woodson v. North Carolina, and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 153 , reaffirmed the United States Supreme Court's acceptance of the use of the death penalty in the United States, upholding, in particular, the death sentence imposed on Troy Leon...

, his story had immense cultural resonance at the time, and it continues to echo in the works of writers, artists and even advertisers to this day.

Before his execution, the December 11, 1976, episode of NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

's Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

 featured guest host Candice Bergen
Candice Bergen
Candice Patricia Bergen is an American actress and former fashion model.She is known for starring in two TV series, as the title character on the situation comedy Murphy Brown , for which she won five Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards; and as Shirley Schmidt on the comedy-drama Boston Legal...

 and the cast singing a Christmas-themed medley
Medley (music)
In music, a medley is a piece composed from parts of existing pieces, usually three, played one after another, sometimes overlapping. They are common in popular music, and most medleys are songs rather than instrumental. A medley which is a remixed series is called a megamix, often done with tracks...

 entitled "Let's Kill Gary Gilmore For Christmas". Dressed in winter attire and surrounded by fake snow, the performers sang the medley of familiar Christmas carols with altered lyrics. Lyrics set to "Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland
"Winter Wonderland" is a winter song, popularly treated as a Christmastime pop standard, written in 1934 by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith . Through the decades it has been recorded by over 150 different artists.-History:...

" included this line: "In the meadow we can build a snowman / One with Gary Gilmore packed inside / We'll ask him, 'Are you dead yet?' He'll say, 'No, man' / But we'll wait out the frostbite till he dies." A later episode of Saturday Night Live, on October 20, 1979 featured guest host Eric Idle
Eric Idle
Eric Idle is an English comedian, actor, author, singer, writer, and comedic composer. He was as a member of the British comedy group Monty Python, a member of the The Rutles on Saturday Night Live and author of the play, Spamalot....

 performing impersonations while strapped to a stretcher, assisted by orderlies. With the stretcher standing on end, Idle covered his eyes with a black blindfold and announced it as an impersonation of Gary Gilmore.

Other television comedies have referred to the Gilmore execution, specifically his final words, "Let's do it." The Seinfeld
Seinfeld is an American television sitcom that originally aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998, lasting nine seasons, and is now in syndication. It was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself...

 episode "The Jacket" originally included a reference to Gary Gilmore's final words, but the scene was changed during the final shoot. In the deleted scene, Jerry
Jerry Seinfeld (character)
Jerome "Jerry" Seinfeld is the main protagonist of the American television sitcom Seinfeld . The straight man among his group of friends, this semi-fictionalized version of comedian Jerry Seinfeld was named after, co-created by, based on, and played by Seinfeld himself.The series revolves around...

 is trying to decide upon buying the titular jacket, when he remarks to Elaine
Elaine Benes
Elaine Marie Benes is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld , played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Elaine's best friend is her ex-boyfriend Jerry Seinfeld; she is also good friends with George Costanza and Cosmo Kramer...

: "Well, in the immortal words of Gary Gilmore 'Let's do it.'" On the Roseanne
Roseanne (TV series)
Roseanne is an American sitcom broadcast on ABC from October 18, 1988 to May 20, 1997. Starring Roseanne Barr, the show revolved around the Conners, an Illinois working class family...

 episode "The Wedding", Roseanne
Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Cherrie Barr is an American actress, comedian, writer, television producer and director. Barr began her career in stand-up comedy at clubs before gaining fame for her role in the sitcom Roseanne. The show was a hit and lasted nine seasons, from 1988 to 1997...

's daughter Darlene is asked if she is ready to get married. Darlene responds with a similar punchline, "Well in the words of Gary Gilmore, 'Let's do it!'". On NYPD Blue
NYPD Blue is an American television police drama set in New York City, exploring the internal and external struggles of the fictional 15th precinct of Manhattan...

, Andy Sipowicz
Andy Sipowicz
Andy Sipowicz is a fictional character and protagonist on the popular ABC television series NYPD Blue. Dennis Franz portrayed the character for its entire run....

 cracks "Let's do it," as his wedding is about to begin, then explains further, "That's what that guy in Utah said...'Let's do it.' He said that to the firing squad just before they whacked him."

The founder of advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy
Wieden+Kennedy is an independently owned American advertising agency best known for its work for Nike...

, Dan Wieden
Dan Wieden
Dan Wieden is an American advertising executive who co-founded Wieden+Kennedy, and who coined the Nike tagline "Just Do It".He and David Kennedy were listed as number 22 on the Advertising Age 100 ad people of the 20th century...

 credits the inspiration for his "Just Do It" Nike
Nike, Inc.
Nike, Inc. is a major publicly traded sportswear and equipment supplier based in the United States. The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, which is part of the Portland metropolitan area...

 slogan to Gary Gilmore’s last words.

Gilmore's story was documented in Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

's Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning novel The Executioner's Song
The Executioner's Song
The Executioner's Song is a 1980 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Norman Mailer that depicts the events surrounding the execution of Gary Gilmore by the state of Utah for murder. The title of the book may be a play on "The Lord High Executioner's Song" from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado...

 (1979). Notable not only for its portrayal of Gilmore and the anguish surrounding the murders he committed, the book also took a central position in the national debate over the revival of capital punishment. Another writer to blend fact with fiction was the Colombian writer Rafael Chaparro Madiedo, who made Gary Gilmore one of the main characters of his 1992 National Prize Novel Opio en las Nubes.

In 1982, The Executioner's Song was adapted by Mailer for a television movie of the same name starring Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones is an American actor and film director. He has received three Academy Award nominations, winning one as Best Supporting Actor for the 1993 thriller film The Fugitive....

 as Gilmore, and co-starring Christine Lahti
Christine Lahti
Christine Lahti is an American actress and film director. Lahti has had a successful career in television and film. Throughout her career she has garnered 2 Golden Globe Awards from 8 Nominations, An Emmy Award from 6 Nominations and 2 Academy Award nominations...

, Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach
Eli Herschel Wallach is an American film, television and stage actor, who gained fame in the late 1950s. For his performance in Baby Doll he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe nomination. One of his most famous roles is that of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...

, and Rosanna Arquette
Rosanna Arquette
Rosanna Lauren Arquette is an American actress, film director, and producer.-Early life:Arquette was born in New York City, the daughter of Brenda Olivia "Mardi" , an actress, poet, theater operator, activist, acting teacher, and therapist, and Lewis Arquette, an actor and director. Her paternal...

. Jones won an Emmy Award
Emmy Award
An Emmy Award, often referred to simply as the Emmy, is a television production award, similar in nature to the Peabody Awards but more focused on entertainment, and is considered the television equivalent to the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards .A majority of Emmys are presented in various...

 for his portrayal of Gilmore. Gilmore's brother's memoir Shot in the Heart
Shot in the Heart
Shot in the Heart is a memoir written by Mikal Gilmore, then a senior contributing editor at Rolling Stone, about his tumultuous childhood in a dysfunctional family, and his brother Gary Gilmore's eventual execution by firing squad in 1977 for a convenience store murder he committed in Provo,...

 was also made into an HBO
Home Box Office
HBO, short for Home Box Office, is an American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner. , HBO's programming reaches 28.2 million subscribers in the United States, making it the second largest premium network in America . In addition to its U.S...

 movie. Another film related influence was artist Matthew Barney
Matthew Barney
Matthew Barney is an American artist who works in sculpture, photography, drawing and film. His early works were sculptural installations combined with performance and video...

's Cremaster 2 (1999), in which Gilmore was made the main character of the second part of The Cremaster Cycle
The Cremaster Cycle
The Cremaster Cycle is an art project consisting of five feature length films, together with related sculptures, photographs, drawings, and artist's books; it is the best-known work of American visual artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney....

, a series of five films. Gilmore, played by an actress this time, appears in the beginning of Cremaster 3 in a metamorphosed form.

Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson
John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson is an American actor, film director, producer and writer. He is renowned for his often dark portrayals of neurotic characters. Nicholson has been nominated for an Academy Award twelve times, and has won the Academy Award for Best Actor twice: for One Flew Over the...

's performance in The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981 film)
The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1981 film adaptation of the 1934 novel by the same name by James M. Cain. The film was produced by Lorimar and originally released theatrically in North America by Paramount Pictures. This version, based on a screenplay by David Mamet and directed by Bob...

 was reportedly inspired in part by Gilmore.

Many musicians have explored the Gilmore case. In 1977, The Adverts
The Adverts
The Adverts were an English punk band who formed in 1976 and broke up in late 1979. They were one of the first punk bands to enjoy chart success in the UK, and their line-up included Gaye Advert, whom The Virgin Encyclopedia of 70s Music called the "first female punk star".-Career:The band was...

 had a top 20 hit in the UK with the song "Gary Gilmore's Eyes
Gary Gilmore's Eyes
"Gary Gilmore's Eyes" is a single by the punk rock band the Adverts. The song reached #18 in the UK Singles Chart in September, 1977 and earned the band an appearance on Top of the Pops. It was originally intended to be included on the bands' debut album, Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts,...

". The lyrics describe an eye donor recipient realizing his new eyes came from the executed murderer. The song was later covered by the German punk rock
Punk rock
Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock...

 band Die Toten Hosen
Die Toten Hosen
Die Toten Hosen is a German punk band from Düsseldorf. They have enjoyed decades-long mass appeal in Germany.The band's name literally means "The Dead Pants" in English, although the phrase "tote Hose" is a German expression meaning "nothing going on" or "boring"...

 and a country
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

 version of the song was recorded by Dean Schlabowske. Also in 1977, New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 experimental punk band Chain Gang released the song "Gary Gilmore and the Island of Dr. Moreau" as the B-side to their single "Son of Sam" about a contemporary serial killer that was still at-karge. The Police
The Police
The Police were an English rock band formed in London in 1977. For the vast majority of their history, the band consisted of Sting , Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland...

's song "Bring on the Night", from their 1979 album Reggatta de Blanc
Reggatta de Blanc
Reggatta de Blanc is the second album by The Police, released in 1979. It features the band's first two number 1 hits, "Message in a Bottle" and "Walking on the Moon".-Background:...

, speculated on Gary Gilmore's possible feelings on the evening before the execution took place. In 1980, The Judy's
The Judy's
The Judy's were a Pearland, Texas-based punk and new wave band from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The song for which they are most likely best-remembered, "Guyana Punch", recounted the infamous Jonestown massacre. On December 1, 2007, The Judy's announced the opening of their own label and...

 released the song "How's Gary?" on their album Wonderful World of Appliances. The song presumably asks Gary Gilmore's mother what's wrong with him, saying that he never comes out to play anymore; the song also inquires about the holes in his vest and why he is wearing a blindfold.

Several playwrights have also integrated the Gilmore story into their work in one way or another. The Oakland
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

-based performance artist Monte Cazazza
Monte Cazazza
Monte Cazazza is an American artist and composer best known for his seminal role in helping shape the early landscape of industrial music through recordings with the London-based Industrial Records in the mid-1970s.-Career:...

 sent out photos of himself in an electric chair
Electric chair
Execution by electrocution, usually performed using an electric chair, is an execution method originating in the United States in which the condemned person is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted through electrodes placed on the body...

 on the day of the execution. One of these was mistakenly printed in a Hong Kong newspaper as the real execution. Cazazza was also photographed alongside COUM Transmissions
COUM Transmissions
COUM Transmissions was a performance art group interested in pushing boundaries, influenced by Dada and the Merry Pranksters.CT was a whimsical, eccentric as well as confrontational band and performance art group, from Hull, Yorkshire – a collective the constants of which were its...

/Throbbing Gristle
Throbbing Gristle
Throbbing Gristle were an English industrial, avant-garde music and visual arts group that evolved from the performance art group COUM Transmissions...

 members Genesis P-Orridge
Genesis P-Orridge
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is an English singer-songwriter, musician, writer and artist. P-Orridge's early confrontational performance work in COUM Transmissions in the late 1960s and early 1970s along with the industrial band Throbbing Gristle, which dealt with subjects such as prostitution,...

 and Cosey Fanni Tutti
Cosey Fanni Tutti
Cosey Fanni Tutti is best known as a performance artist and for her time in Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey....

 for the "Gary Gilmore Memorial Society" postcard, in which the three artists posed blindfolded and tied to chairs with actual loaded guns pointed at them to depict Gilmore's execution. In Christopher Durang
Christopher Durang
Christopher Ferdinand Durang is an American playwright known for works of outrageous and often absurd comedy. His work was especially popular in the 1980s.- Life :...

's play Beyond Therapy
Beyond Therapy
Beyond Therapy is a play by Christopher Durang.The farcical comedy focuses on Prudence and Bruce, two Manhattanites who are seeking stable romantic relationships with the help of their psychiatrists, each of whom suggests the patient place a personal ad. Bruce is a highly emotional bisexual who...

 (1983), the character Bruce claims that he "Wanted to see Gary Gilmore executed on television." The Welsh
Welsh people
The Welsh people are an ethnic group and nation associated with Wales and the Welsh language.John Davies argues that the origin of the "Welsh nation" can be traced to the late 4th and early 5th centuries, following the Roman departure from Britain, although Brythonic Celtic languages seem to have...

 playwright Dic Edwards
Dic Edwards
Dic Edwards is a British playwright and poet with more than 20 productions to his name. Born in Cardiff Edwards has often found himself at odds with his Welsh background...

 dramatised Gilmore's life in his 1995 play Utah Blue.

See also

  • Capital punishment in the United States
    Capital punishment in the United States
    Capital punishment in the United States, in practice, applies only for aggravated murder and more rarely for felony murder. Capital punishment was a penalty at common law, for many felonies, and was enforced in all of the American colonies prior to the Declaration of Independence...

  • Capital punishment in Utah
  • John Albert Taylor
    John Albert Taylor
    John Albert Taylor was an American who was convicted of burglary and carrying a concealed weapon in the state of Florida, and sexual assault and murder in the state of Utah. Taylor's own sister tipped off police in June 1989 after 11-year-old Charla King was found raped and strangled to death in...

External links

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