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James Larry UPTON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Hitchhiking
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 10, 1954
Date of birth: 1934
Victim profile: Donald Dilley (airman)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in New Mexico on February 24, 1956

Feb. 24, 1956: James Larry Upton was convicted of murdering a man who had given him a ride hitchhiking. According to newspaper accounts, several spectators at his electrocution were drunk and rowdy.


James Larry Upton

Over one hundred observers, some intoxicated, attended the spectacle made of James Uptonís death. Having been seated in the electric chair, Upton was asked if he had anything to say. He inquired if his face would be covered by a mask. The warden responded affirmatively, and Upton replied that he had nothing to say.

The regular execution cap would not fit, so an improvised cap made from a parka was used. Consequently, smoke billowed from fur remaining on the cap that was ignited from the ensuing voltage.

James Upton was declared dead at 12:09 AM, on February 12, 1956. Uptonís execution would be the last death sentence implemented in New Mexico by the electric chair; the gas chamber was subsequently used in the next execution.

Upton had been convicted in the September 10, 1954, murder of Airman Donald Dilley. Dilley had picked up the hitchhiking Upton in Texas, and subsequently shot him outside of Albuquerque in a robbery attempt.

He stated that he had seen Dilleyís large money roll, and that he was "annoyed" by Dilleyís tough guy demeanor and tales of air force jets.

There were a number of ninth inning attempts to save Uptonís life, including a sanity hearing before the New Mexico Supreme Court 15 hours before the scheduled execution; and a telegram sent by Upton's mother to the Court of Appeals in Denver approximately 12 hours prior to the scheduled execution.

In the aforementioned hearing, testimony by Uptonís psychiatrist Rudolph Kieve was submitted, stating that in his opinion Upton was insane, the affliction being caused by an alleged attack of encephalitis lethargica while Upton was young.

Prosecution noted that the psychiatristís testimony was markedly different than that rendered just 3 days prior in federal court, wherein he had not opined that Upton was insane. (Kieve was also reported in the media as having staunch anti-capital punishment views.)

The State Supreme Court found Upton sane, and the Federal Court of Appeals declined to intervene. Upton was baptized a Catholic the afternoon prior to his execution.



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