A 23-year old man sits in a prison cell
with the widest smile painted across his face.
Clasped in his right hand is a toy train.
He pushes it right up to his eyes,
saying hi to the little people he imagines are in the carriages.
He winds it up and sets it off down the landing,
giggling with excitement as he does so.
A few seconds later, another prisoner sends the train back to his cell.
It’s hard to believe he’s about to face the gas chamber.
It’s even harder to believe he’s been convicted of an extremely grisly ax murder.
He might be guilty as charged, but he’s liked by all the guards and the warden.
That warden in fact calls this man “the happiest prisoner on death row.”
This is the story of a man named Joe Arridy.
He was born in 1915 in Pueblo, Colorado, to parents Henry and Mary.
Both were immigrants from Syria who’d gone to the USA to make a better life for themselves.
It was tough at first, but Henry’s job at a steel mill
afforded the family certain luxuries they hadn’t had before.
There was a problem, though, with their young son.
They knew very well that Joe wasn’t like a lot of the other kids,
a conviction which was substantiated when his elementary school principal one day
approached Henry and Mary and told them that
Joe wasn’t able to learn with the other kids.
He could barely string a sentence together,
never mind wrestle with difficult spelling and arithmetic.
His parents thought the best thing for Joe was sending him
to a school that could deal with his learning difficulties.
so off he was packed to
the “State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives.”
Only this place was not salubrious in the least for young Joe.
Being short and having prominent ears, Joe was the target of
bullying from other kids in the home.
He suffered beatings at the bully’s hands,
just as he did when he returned to his neighborhood.
Even the adults were unkind,
some of them laughing when “Slow Joe” walked down the street.
Such were the times.
When he was 21, he just picked up and left, jumping on a freight rail car,
21岁时 他收拾行李离开 跳上一辆货运火车
not knowing where it would take him.
He ended up in the railyards of Cheyenne in the state of Wyoming, wandering around,
trying his best to find food and shelter
That’s when the cops picked him up and his life went from bad to worse.
Those cops had been looking for someone, a man presumably, who’d committed horrendous
crimes about 200 miles away in Pueblo, Colorado.
They found out soon that Joe came from Pueblo, and what’s more,
a railcar ran from there to Cheyenne.
That was enough to put Joe in handcuffs.
The crimes had indeed been extreme,
and certainly enough for the public to put pressure on the authorities.
No one in Pueblo went to bed feeling safe.
That was because someone had entered a house owned by the Drain family.
It was nighttime and the parents were at a dance.
Their two daughters, Dorothy and Barbara, were sound asleep at home.
A mad man entered the house and bludgeoned them with an ax,
killing Dorothy and severely injuring Barbara.
Cheyenne Sheriff, George Carroll, looking at Joe, thought he was a misfit.
夏延市警长乔治·卡罗尔 看着乔 认为他很反常
Not only was he disheveled in appearance,
but the young tearaway wasn’t exactly descriptive
when talking about what he’d been doing the past few weeks.
With some grilling, Joe confessed to the crime,
although the tactic of intense police “persuasion” was embraced.
On August 27, 1936, people picked up the Reading Eagle newspaper
and on the first page in
bold capital letters they saw the headline, “YOUTH CONFESSES ATTACKING GIRLS.”
The second paragraph of the story read: Joe Arridy, 21, arrested here last night as a vagrant,
报道的第二段写道 乔·阿瑞迪 21岁 昨晚在此地流浪时被捕
confessed, Sheriff George Carroll said, to the murder.
He said also, according to the sheriff, that he killed Dorothy Drain, 12.
The younger, however, was not killed, but is still unconscious in a Pueblo hospital,
her skull crushed.
The report went on to say that Joe had confessed to planning the murder, waiting for the parents
to leave the house and then going inside and hacking the girls with his ax.
This came as quite a shock to a man named Arthur Grady.
He was the Pueblo police chief and he already had a guy in a jail cell for the brutal slaying.
That guy was Frank Aguilar, an employee of Mr. Drain.
When cops searched Aguilar’s home, guess what they found?
An ax that looked like it could have been the weapon used in the crime.
Now we will look at another newspaper headline, this time in the Greely Daily Tribune.
The headline read: “Aguilar says he murdered Drain child.”
The article explained that Aguilar confessed to the crime
by marking an X next to two five-page confessions.
The other confession was also marked with an X, but an X written by Joe Arridy.
The story goes on to say that Arridy had escaped from a home for the mentally defective and
that later the two men had met the night of the murders and plotted to do the awful deed.
Another part of the story read,
“The confessions were made under the questioning of warden Roy Best.
Don’t forget that name.
The article failed to mention a few very important things,
matters you could say were of mortal importance.
At first, Aguilar had said he had never seen Joe Arridy before in his life, only after
some of that infamous persuasive police questioning,
he changed that statement to being with Joe when the girls were killed.
Another giant omission was the fact that
Joe hadn’t said a word in the transcript of the confession.
All the talk came from Aguilar.
In 1937, Aguilar was convicted of the crime and was subsequently executed,
but at least some people knew
something wasn’t quite right with Joe’s signing of the confession.
Even so, his lawyer tried to argue that he wasn’t guilty by reason of insanity, rather
than fight the case for his absolute innocence.
Think about it.
There wasn’t an actual transcript of Joe’s confession, which is a big deal.
Also, there was no evidence that put Joe close to the Drain house on the night of the crime.
It also came to light that Joe had said he killed the girl with a club, not an ax,
Still, the lawyer went for the insanity defense. It didn’t work,
which is not surprising because it very rarely does, then and now.
But when three state psychiatrists testified in the case
something else came up.
That was the fact they all said that Joe had the mental age of a six-year-old.
His IQ was 46, which back then made him an “imbecile.”
Such a word was just formal medical lexicon in those days, just as “retard” was.
Joe wasn’t quite an “idiot” in the now obsolete classifications,
but he also didn’t qualify as a “moron.”
Still, the psychiatrists said he was “incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong,
and therefore, would be unable to perform any action with a criminal intent.”
But what about his spoken confession to Sheriff Carroll?
Was it right that a man with the brain capacity of a little kid should be convicted of murder
for something he said under police duress?
Of course it wasn’t, but the police could get away with more venality back then
that they currently get away with.
When Barbara Drain recovered from her injuries she wasn’t suffering from amnesia and so
could talk about what happened on the night.
Things looked good for Joe because she said
the guy in her bedroom was the man that worked for her father, Frank Aguilar.
She also said she didn’t recall Joe being there on the night of the attack.
It didn’t seem to matter.
Joe was convicted of murder and sentenced to die in the gas chamber.
He wasn’t alone, however, and there were numerous appeals.
Attorney Gail L. Ireland got behind him and said the evidence stated that Aguilar had
first said he committed the crime alone.
Furthermore, said Ireland, this other guy you’ve got locked is so mentally challenged
而且 爱尔兰说道 被关押的乔有严重的心智障碍
that he doesn’t even know what execution means.
“Believe me when I say that if he is gassed,
爱尔兰在法庭上说 “请相信我 如果他被执行死刑
it will take a long time for the state of Colorado Colorado
to live down the disgrace!” said Ireland in court.
The appeals seemed to work for a while, as did all the other petitions flooding in.
Just as the execution was around the corner, a stay was granted.
In fact, nine stays were granted in all, but those are just temporary delays.
事实上 总共有九个暂缓令被批准 但都是短暂的延后
What Ireland and all of Joe’s supporters wanted was an exoneration,
and that was looking possible the more support that Joe received.
Meanwhile, Joe was in his cell on death row playing with his toy trucks and sending his
wind-up train past the cells of all the other prisoners’ cells.
He actually seemed to be enjoying himself, probably because for the first time in a while
he had a place to sleep and was getting warm meals on a regular basis.
Warden Roy Best, who was there when Aguila and Joe wrote those “X’s” was the one that
gave Joe the toys.
Why hadn’t he said anything about Joe’s mental state
before if he felt so sorry for him, you might be wondering.
That’s not an easy question to answer.
Best became known as the “most notorious” warden in Colorado history.
He flogged prisoners, and he tortured them with other terrible punishments, and when
he thought someone was homosexual, he made them wear a dress
and push a wheelbarrow full of bricks around all day.
Nevertheless, he had a progressive side, too.
He developed educational programs so that prisoners might get a job once released.
He ensured women prisoners were kept safe from dangerous male prisoners and he even
introduced a dental care program in the prison.
It seems he also stood by prisoners who were mentally disabled.
Still, Joe didn’t need more toys or caring words from the warden, what he needed was
the state to do something unusual and admit mistakes had happened.
This never comes easy.
Like many people who criticize the justice system say
it’s often winning that counts, not justice.
And as time passed, even with all the petitions, and support from Best himself, the state was
starting to look like a winner.
January 5, 1939.
The Reading Eagle published another article about Joe.
The headline read: “Condemned prisoner to give train to another slayer.”
The story called Joe “weak-witted”, and said he had the intelligence of a six-year-old,
but it didn’t question that injustice might have occurred, and instead called him a “slayer”.
The article said that when the Warden went to Joe’s cell to tell him that his death
was impending, the only thing Joe said was give my train to the guy in the other cell.
The newspaper described this other guy, Angelo Agnes,
as a “Denver negro condemned for slaying his wife.”
Best told the paper that Joe had told him, “If I go, yes,
贝斯特把乔的话透露给报纸 “是的 如果我走了
give my train to Agnes.”
He actually didn’t really know what the gas chamber was,
although he did have some understanding of dying.
He had said to Best, “No, no.
他告诉过贝斯特 “不 不
Joe won’t die.”
January 6, 1939.
Prison chaplain Father Albert Schaller walked into Joe’s cell.
As soon as he looked at Joe again he knew a travesty of justice was about to happen.
The chaplain watched Joe eat the ice cream,
the food he’d asked for when asked what he wanted for his last meal.
He couldn’t actually comprehend what that meant, of course.
When the chaplain read Joe his last rites, he had to do it very slowly and only two words
at a time so Joe could repeat the words.
The chaplain tried to hold back his emotions, but his eyes filled with tears.
When the chaplin explained to Joe what’s about to happen,
Joe just looked at him with blank bewilderment.
When led out of his cell the last thing he did
was hand over the train as he’d promised.
He started to get nervous when being walked towards the execution room with
about 50 other people.
He might not have known what the gas chamber was,
but he could sense something unusual was happening.
He started to shake on the way, only to be calmed down when warden Best held his hand.
“Do you understand, Joe?” asked Best.
“乔 你明白吗” 贝斯特问道
“They are killing me,” Joe replied, still looking like a confused child.
When he entered the room, he was strapped into the chair.
At that point, he was grinning nervously.
When a blindfold was put over his eyes, for the first time in a long time,
he wasn’t smiling at all. smiling at all. He was petrified.
The warden and the chaplain said goodbye.
Joe muttered “bye”, trembling as he did so.
Then all he heard was the clanging of the steel door closing.
The airtight chamber filled with cyanide as Joe waited, wondering
what they were doing to him.
January 7, 1939.
A headline in the St. Petersburg Times read, “Happiest man in death cell dies.”
The story went on, “The 23-year old youth, d
escribed as having a mental age of six, was
pronounced dead six and one-fourth minutes after cyanide pellets were dropped into an
acid jar beneath the chair to which he was strapped.”
The warden said after, “He probably didn’t even know he was about to die.”
It should have been big news. It should have upset a nation,
but then newspaper headlines in bigger print than Joe’s had the names Hitler and Mussolini in them.
People had other concerns.
In the decades to come, though, people still talked about this massive injustice,
a crime committed by those supposed to protect us.
Finally, in 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter issued a pardon for Joe,
saying there had been, a “tragic conviction
based on a false and coerced confession” of a mentally disabled man.
He added, “Pardoning Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history.
It is in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name.”
Now you need to watch, “Innocent on Death Row,
Here’s What You Actually Get When You’re Released.”
Or, have a look at, “Why Prisoner Proven Innocent Can’t Be Released.”
A 23-year old man sits in a prison cell