Nun inspires "dead man laughing"

Claiming inspiration from Sr Helen Prejean's book on capital punishment, Dead Man Walking, a Texas death row prisoner has organised a joke contest in which he will read the winning entry as his last words before his execution in just over a week.

"I'll be enjoying my last days on this earth ... I am asking you to spread the word that I am holding a contest," Knight, 39, told reporters according to the West Australian.

"I want people to send me their best jokes, to keep me and the others with (execution) dates laughing!" Patrick Knight, 39, told reporters in an interview from his prison.

Convicted of murdering two neighbours in 1991, Knight has spent the past 16 years on death row in Texas, the state that accounts for more than one third of all US executions since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

Relaxed and cracking jokes, Knight got all serious when he explained why death row needed an injection of humour.

"We have a situation back there where you have guys that are actually innocent - I'm not one of them ... Jokes are needed back there, something to ease the tension."

However, Knight betrayed no tension when he said: "Death is my punishment, I've accepted that, that's what's gonna happen. If you got to go, go with a smile."

He said the idea for a contest came from reading Dead Man Walking, a book on capital punishment by Sr Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun and advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, which was turned into a Hollywood movie starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.

So Knight, tongue in cheek, titled his website Dead Man Laughing.

Knight promised to read the winning entry out loud when he is asked for his last statement before he is put to death on 26 June.

Death row inmate holds joke contest for his 'last words' (The West Australian, 17/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Patrick Knight (Scheduled Executions, Texas Department of Criminal Justice)
Dead Man Laughing (MySpace)
Stop Executions blog
Sr Helen Prejean website
Helen Prejean (Wikipedia)

Guantanamo "an aberration", Death Row sister says (CathNews, 27/3/07)

18 Jun 2007