Jimmy Lee Gray

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Jimmy Lee Gray (1949 – September 2, 1983) was convicted for the murder of three-year-old Deressa Jean Scales in 1976, after kidnapping and anally raping her.[1] At the time of this murder, he was free on parole following a conviction in Arizona for the murder of a 16-year-old girl.

He was executed in 1983 by the State of Mississippi by gas chamber.[2] He became the first person to be executed in Mississippi since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated.

Dan Lohwasser, a reporter for United Press International, was one of the observers who witnessed Gray's execution. Lohwasser's account of Gray's death sparked a controversy, because of its violent nature. At the time of Gray's execution, the gas chamber used in Mississippi had a vertical iron bar directly behind the inmate's chair. There was no headrest or strap used to restrain Gray's head. As Gray began breathing in the toxic gas, he started thrashing his head around, striking the iron bar repeatedly before he finally lost consciousness. Officials decided to clear the observation room eight minutes after the gas had been released, because of Gray's injuries.[3] The decision to clear the room was sharply criticized by Dennis Balske, Gray's attorney. "Jimmy Lee Gray died banging his head against a steel pole in the gas chamber while reporters counted his moans (eleven, according to the Associated Press)".

In part because Gray's execution by lethal gas was botched in this instance, Mississippi passed legislation making lethal injection the sole method of execution for inmates sentenced after 1 July 1984, though three more inmates (Edward Earl Johnson, Connie Evans and Leo Edwards) sentenced before this date were still executed by lethal gas. Mississippi's gas chamber was decommissioned in 1998.

Gray's execution is mentioned in the movie "The Chamber" from 1996, when Gene Hackman's character describes the botched execution of Teddy Meek in the Mississippi gas chamber.

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Preceded by
John Louis Evans
People executed in US Succeeded by
Robert Sullivan