Feb. 24, 1956: James Larry Upton
was convicted of murdering a man who had given him a ride
hitchhiking. According to newspaper accounts, several spectators at
his electrocution were drunk and rowdy.
James Larry Upton
Over one hundred observers,
some intoxicated, attended the spectacle made of James Uptonís death.
Having been seated in the electric chair, Upton was asked if he had
anything to say. He inquired if his face would be covered by a mask.
The warden responded affirmatively, and Upton replied that he had
nothing to say.
The regular execution cap would
not fit, so an improvised cap made from a parka was used. Consequently,
smoke billowed from fur remaining on the cap that was ignited from the
James Upton was declared dead at
12:09 AM, on February 12, 1956. Uptonís execution would be the last
death sentence implemented in New Mexico by the electric chair; the gas
chamber was subsequently used in the next execution.
Upton had been convicted in the September 10,
1954, murder of Airman Donald Dilley. Dilley had picked up the
hitchhiking Upton in Texas, and subsequently shot him outside of
Albuquerque in a robbery attempt.
He stated that he had seen Dilleyís large money
roll, and that he was "annoyed" by Dilleyís tough guy demeanor and tales
of air force jets.
There were a number of ninth inning attempts to
save Uptonís life, including a sanity hearing before the New Mexico
Supreme Court 15 hours before the scheduled execution; and a telegram
sent by Upton's mother to the Court of Appeals in Denver approximately
12 hours prior to the scheduled execution.
In the aforementioned hearing, testimony by
Uptonís psychiatrist Rudolph Kieve was submitted, stating that in his
opinion Upton was insane, the affliction being caused by an alleged
attack of encephalitis lethargica while Upton was young.
Prosecution noted that the psychiatristís
testimony was markedly different than that rendered just 3 days prior in
federal court, wherein he had not opined that Upton was insane. (Kieve
was also reported in the media as having staunch anti-capital punishment
The State Supreme Court found Upton sane, and the
Federal Court of Appeals declined to intervene. Upton was baptized a
Catholic the afternoon prior to his execution.