Condemned Texas Inmate Wants to Leave 'Em Laughing

A condemned inmate wants to leave them laughing.

Patrick Knight is collecting jokes and will pick the funniest one for his last statement before he is set to die June 26 for shooting his neighbors, Walter and Mary Werner, to death almost 16 years ago outside Amarillo.

Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson thinks the whole idea is insensitive. "This tells you a little bit about the guy's character, anyway," said Richardson, who was chief deputy at the time of the Werners' killings and plans to witness Knight's execution.

Richardson said that the Werners' son, who has since moved out of Texas, has said he won't speak about the case anymore.

"They don't want to draw any more attention to this guy than is possible," Richardson said.

Knight acknowledges there's nothing funny about his execution.

"I'm not trying to disrespect the Werners or anything like that," he told The Associated Press from death row. "I'm not trying to say I don't care what's going on. I'm about to die. I'm not going to sit here and whine and cry and moan and everything like that when I'm facing the punishment I've been given.

"I'm not asking for money. I'm not asking for pen pals or anything like that. All I'm asking for is jokes," Knight said.

He's had about 250 wisecracks mailed to him on death row or e-mailed to a friend who has a Web site for him.

"Lawyer jokes are real popular," he said. "Some of them are a little on the edge. I'm not going to use any profanity if I can find the one I want, or any vulgar content. It wouldn't be bad if it was a little bit on the edge. That would be cool."

Knight, 39, would be the last of five condemned inmates set to die over three weeks this month in Texas, the nation's most active state in carrying out capital punishment.

Fourteen executions already have happened in Texas this year and if all five take place in June, the pace will be just shy of the record of 40 executions set in 2000. At least 10 other inmates already have execution dates set for the second half of the year.

Knight said he got the idea for a joke as his last statement after a friend, Vincent Gutierrez, was executed earlier this year and laughed from the death chamber gurney: "Where's a stunt double when you need one?"

"I know I'm not innocent," said Knight, who believes his appeals have been exhausted. "They think they're killing me. They think they're punishing me. They've already punished me. I've already had 16 years of punishment. They're releasing me. They're letting me go. That's helping me out. That's the way I look at it."