A recent issue of The Angolite, a magazine published by prison inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, highlights the story of Joe Arridy, who was executed in 1939 in Colorado. Arridy was sentenced to death in 1937 for the murder and sexual assault of a teenage girl. After his execution, facts pointing to Arridy’s innocence gradually emerged. New evidence showed that he had been coerced into giving a false confession, that he was not in town at the time of the crime, and that another person had admitted to committing the crime. In addition, Arridy had an IQ of 46, and was easily led by police. One psychiatrist, Dr. B.L. Jefferson, testified that Arridy had the mind of a child of about six years old and was not capable in aiding in his defense or of giving a reliable confession. On death row, Arridy spent his days playing with toys and requested ice cream for his last three meals. Witnesses say he stepped into the gas chamber still grinning like a little boy. On January 7, 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter granted Arridy a full and unconditional posthumous pardon.

(K. Meyers, “The Happiest Man on Death Row,” The Angolite, September/October 2011; posted by DPIC, June 5, 2012). See Innocence and Intellectual Disability. See also DPIC’s examples of inmates executed who may have been innocent.