Condemned prisoner Patrick Knight was executed Tuesday evening for the deaths of an Amarillo-area couple without delivering a promised funny punch line.
In a final statement, in which he had said he would tell a joke, 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. CT, he was pronounced dead.
Prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons disputed Knight's mistaken identity claim.
"We fingerprint them when they come over," she said.
Knight, 39, was the 18th inmate executed this year in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state, and the fourth this month.
Knight, who was executed for the abduction and killing of a couple who lived next door to him, had been soliciting jokes in the mail and on a Web site, sometimes receiving as many as 20 a day. He said his humor was intended to raise the spirits of other inmates.
"A little bit of levity is needed," Knight had said of the mood on death row. "And it seems to be working. I just want to go out laughing. I'm not trying to disrespect anyone. I know I'm not innocent."
'No respect for human life'
District Attorney James Farren, whose office prosecuted Knight at his 1993 trial, said Knight's plans were another example of his recklessness.
"It just shows he has no respect for human life, including his own," Farren said.
Knight, 39, had exhausted all appeals, and his lawyer planned no last-minute attempts to block the lethal injection.
Paul Mansur, Knight's attorney, said his client's plans were not meant to "trivialize" the lethal injection, only to ease the gloom of fellow prisoners.
"They see these people go, and these are people they know and communicate with," Mansur said. "They have a camaraderie together. So it's really just for them."
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.
'I regret so much'
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."
"I'm the cause of this crime, no doubt about it," he said. "It bothers me I might be capable of taking someone's life."
Bradfield, who was 19 at the time, was sentenced to life in prison.