Jesse Bishop

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Jesse Bishop
Jesse Walter Bishop

(1933-03-01)March 1, 1933
DiedOctober 22, 1979(1979-10-22) (aged 46)
Cause of deathExecution by gas chamber
Criminal statusExecuted
Conviction(s)First degree murder
Criminal penaltyDeath (February 10, 1978)
VictimsDavid Ballard, 22
DateDecember 20, 1977
CountryUnited States
Date apprehended
December 22, 1977
Imprisoned atNevada State Prison

Jesse Walter Bishop (March 1, 1933 – October 22, 1979) was an American criminal convicted of the December 1977 murder of David Ballard during a robbery at a Las Vegas Strip casino.[1] Bishop was executed in 1979 by the state of Nevada via gas chamber, becoming the first person to be executed in Nevada since 1961. He was also the first person to be executed in Nevada since the reinstatement of capital punishment, and the third (after Gary Gilmore and John Spenkelink) in the United States.[2] Bishop had spent twenty years of his life incarcerated for various felony offenses and bragged about having committed an estimated eighteen homicides.[3]

Early life[edit]

Bishop was born on March 1, 1933, in Glasgow, Kentucky. One of four children, Bishop's parents separated when he was 5, resulting in him moving in with his father in East Los Angeles, California. According to Bishop, his father beat him twice a year regardless of whether he had done anything wrong or not. At age 15, Bishop joined a street gang and committed his first armed robbery in Southern California. Two years later, he joined the Air Force as a paratrooper. He served in the Korean War where he sustained injuries and was decorated for his actions.[4]

Bishop developed a drug habit and was caught in possession of heroin, resulting in him being dishonorably discharged. He spent two years at the United States Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before returning to life as a civilian. He then led a life of crime which was mostly full of drug offenses and robberies.[5]


In 1962, Bishop served time in a California state prison for robbery and spent five years behind bars. He was paroled in 1967 but continued his life of crime, abusing heroin, and committing robberies. In 1970, he returned to prison once again. He successfully escaped from prison in 1972 but was caught shortly afterward and returned. In 1976, he won a parole to Los Angeles, however, according to prison records, he continued to abuse heroin and commit crimes. In 1977, he committed an armed robbery and became a wanted fugitive.[6]

On December 20, 1977, Bishop walked into the El Morocco casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. Armed with a .38-caliber revolver, he held up the female cashier and demanded all of the money. Two men witnessed the robbery and attempted to intervene. Employee Larry Thompson, and another casino customer, David Ballard, tried to stop him. Bishop shot Thompson in the stomach and Ballard in the back as he tried to flee. Bishop stole $238 and fled the casino. Thompson survived the shooting, but Ballard, a 22-year-old newlywed Volkswagen mechanic from Baltimore, Maryland, succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital on December 30. He never regained consciousness following the shooting. He had been married for only three hours before being shot.[7]


Following the shooting, Bishop fled the casino in a green car, which was found abandoned at the Frontier Hotel the following day. He later robbed a man at the Union Plaza Hotel in downtown Las Vegas a day after the murder and stole his car. Bishop abandoned the stolen car and then stole a pickup truck during his attempt to flee from authorities. He took hostages and got into another car at gunpoint, ordering the owner to drive him around. He then hijacked a U.S. mail truck and took another hostage. Finally, he stole a UPS truck, bringing the number of stolen vehicles to five.[8] He eventually abandoned the UPS truck and made his way on foot.[9]

On December 22, two days after the casino robbery, Bishop was captured following an extensive manhunt. He was captured in Boulder City, Nevada, sleeping beneath a mobile home or camper. The gun used in the murder was found in his possession.[10] Despite claiming he would shoot it out with authorities, Bishop surrendered quietly and was taken into custody before being taken back to Las Vegas to face charges.[11]


Bishop was first sentenced to death on February 10, 1978, after he admitted to murdering Ballard. Bishop said he would not appeal from the moment he was sentenced and even feared his execution would never be carried out. Under Nevada law, the Supreme Court of Nevada must review any death sentence. An automatic appeal was filed against the wishes of Bishop, who tried to fire his attorneys in an attempt to speed up his execution.[12] In 1979, the Supreme Court of Nevada refused to reverse the sentence.[13]

On August 1, 1979, Bishop was sentenced to die in the gas chamber for the murder of Ballard. His execution was originally scheduled for August 27, 1979.[14] However, on August 25, Justice William Rehnquist issued a stay, ordering the state of Nevada to answer a series of questions.[15] The stay was later extended until late September. After the stay was lifted, Bishop was rescheduled for execution on October 22, 1979.[16]

In the early hours of October 22, Bishop was led into the Nevada gas chamber by prison guards. He was strapped into one of the death chairs and the execution via gas inhalation proceeded.[17] Fourteen people witnessed the execution. Bishop was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m. by prison officials.[18] His last meal was filet mignon, tossed salad with Thousand Island dressing, asparagus, baked potato with sour cream and an unspecified dessert.[19] Bishop was the third person to be executed in the United States since 1976, after Gary Gilmore and John Spenkelink.[20] He was also the first person to be executed in Nevada since 1961.[21] Bishop was the last inmate in Nevada to be executed by the gas chamber. Executions thereafter have been carried out by lethal injection in the same chamber.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Turner, Wallace (October 23, 1979). "Murderer in casino executed in Nevada". The New York Times. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  2. ^ Ryan, Cy (October 15, 2007). "He says he's ready; will he die tonight?". Las Vegas Sun. Archived from the original on November 16, 2007. Retrieved November 12, 2007.
  3. ^ Curry, Bill (October 23, 1979). "Bishop Granted His Wish: Death Without a Delay". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  4. ^ "Jesse Bishop Never Asked for Any Mercy". The Republic. October 22, 1979. p. 26. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  5. ^ "Jesse Bishop Dies in Gas Chamber". The Republic. October 22, 1979. p. 8. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  6. ^ Riley, Brendan (October 21, 1979). "Murderer Jesse Bishop has date with gas chamber". Messenger-Inquirer. p. 3. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  7. ^ "Remember the victim". The Herald-News. October 28, 1979. p. 11. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  8. ^ "Vegas crime spree ends in capture". Reno Gazette-Journal. December 22, 1977. pp. 1, 2. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  9. ^ "Suspect arrested after crime spree". The Arizona Republic. December 23, 1977. p. 13. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  10. ^ "Suspect Arrested For Holdup". The Daily Herald. December 22, 1977. p. 2. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  11. ^ "Bandit Caught By Authorities". The Desert Sun. December 22, 1977. p. 1. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  12. ^ Riley, Brendan (August 20, 1979). "Hearing set on halting execution". Reno Gazette-Journal. p. 17. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  13. ^ "Murderer seeks his right to execution". Reno Gazette-Journal. April 28, 1978. p. 25. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  14. ^ "Californian sentenced to death for Nevada murder". The Los Angeles Times. August 2, 1979. p. 27. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  15. ^ "Rehnquist grants a stay of Nev. killer's execution". New York Daily News. August 26, 1979. p. 128. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  16. ^ "Stay of execution extended". Democrat and Chronicle. September 8, 1979. p. 7. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  17. ^ "Witnesses Say Bishop Unruffled". The Republic. October 22, 1979. p. 26. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  18. ^ "A reporter's eyewitness account of the execution in Nevada". The Miami News. October 22, 1979. p. 6. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  19. ^ McGinness, Brett (November 3, 2017). "16 last meal requests from Nevada's death-row inmates". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  20. ^ "Since '72, Only 2 Executed Before Bishop". The Republic. October 22, 1979. p. 26. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  21. ^ "Nevada executes slayer". The Miami News. October 22, 1979. pp. 1, 6. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
  22. ^ Adler, Lee (October 22, 1979). "Was Jesse Bishop real, even to himself?". Star-Gazette. p. 1. Retrieved September 4, 2021 – via
Executions carried out in Nevada
Preceded by
Thayne Archibald
August 23, 1961
Jesse Bishop
October 22, 1979
Succeeded by
Carroll Cole
December 6, 1985
Executions carried out in the United States
Preceded by
John SpenkelinkFlorida
May 25, 1979
Jesse Bishop – Nevada
October 22, 1979
Succeeded by
Steven Timothy JudyIndiana
March 9, 1981