Imagine you are about to die but you have a smile on your face. This is almost impossible because even the strongest hero shakes when he hears the word “death.” But in this blog, we’ll tell you about the man on death row who is the happiest.
The warden said that Joe Arridy was “the happiest man on death row” because he was so happy that he couldn’t even think about dying.
Joe Arridy was always very easy to persuade. Arridy was a young man with a mental disability and an IQ of 46. He could be forced to confess or do almost anything. And because the police made him say he did a horrible murder he didn’t do, he ended his short life on death row.
The parents of Dorothy Drain went back to their home in Pueblo, Colorado. On the night of August 15, 1936, they found the body of their 15-year-old daughter in a pool of blood. She had been killed while she was sleeping by a blow to the head.
Barbara, who was younger, had also been hit in the head, but by some miracle, she had lived. The attack on the young girls caused a commotion in the city. Newspapers reported that a sex-crazed killer was in the area, and police started looking for any young man who looked “Mexican” and fit the description given by two other women who said they had been attacked not far from the Drain hose.
Authorities were under great pressure to arrest the murderer and Sheriff George Carroll must have felt nothing but relief when 21-year-old Joe Arridy, who had been found randomly walking near the local railyards, admitted to the killings outright.
The Arrest Of Joe Arridy
Two other women who said they were also attacked in Pueblo said that Joe Arridy’s dark skin was because his parents were Syrian settlers. His parents were also first cousins, which may have made him seem “dumb,” as the newspapers loved to say. Several of Joe Arridy’s siblings died young, and one of his other brothers was called “a high moron.” Joe Arridy himself also seems to have been hurt by the fact that his family members were all related.
When Arridy was just 10 years old, he went to the Colorado State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives in Grand Junction. He would be in and out of the home for the next eleven years, until he finally ran away when he was 21.
Arridy talked slowly, didn’t know what colours were, and couldn’t repeat back sentences with more than two or three words. The person in charge of the state home where Arridy lived remembered that the other boys “often took advantage of” him. For example, they once got him to say that he stole cigarettes, even though he might not have done it.
Maybe Sheriff Carroll knew the same thing about Joe Arridy that these other boys did: that he was very open to suggestions. Carroll didn’t even try to write down Arridy’s confession, and during the trial, the prosecution said, “You had to, as we say, “pry” everything out of him?” Carroll’s leading questions included asking Arridy if he liked girls and then asking, “If you like girls so much, why do you hurt them?”
When Arridy was being unfairly and forcefully questioned, his story changed quickly depending on who was looking into him, and he didn’t know some of the most important facts about the killings until they were told to him (such as the truth that the weapon used had been an ax).
Everyone should have been able to see that Joe Arridy was not the killer and that someone else was. Most likely, the person who killed them was Frank Aguilar, a Mexican man who was found guilty of the killings and put to death after Barbara Drain recognised him.
All of this happened while Arridy was still being held for the murders, but local police were sure that both Aguilar and Arridy were involved in the murders. In either case, the execution of Aguilar does not seem to have stopped the anger in Pueblo. Even though three psychiatrists at Arridy’s trial said he was mentally disabled and had an IQ of 46, he was also found guilty and sentenced to death.
Joe Arridy was given protection because he was not legally sane and could not tell the difference between right and wrong. This meant that he could not do anything illegally.
Since it was said that Arridy had trouble understanding simple things like the difference between a stone and an egg, it seems likely that he wouldn’t know right from wrong. It also looks like, perhaps fortunately, he didn’t fully understand the idea of death.
“Joe Arridy is the happiest man who has ever lived on death row,” said prison warden Roy Best. When Arridy was told he was going to die soon, he seemed much more interested in his toy trains. Arridy said he would like ice cream for his last meal when asked what he would like. On January 6, 1939, Arridy was happy to give his favourite toy train to another prisoner. He was then led to the gas chamber, where the guards put him on the death chair and strapped him in. Warden Best is said to have cried in the gas chamber, but his death was quick.
During the trial, Gail Ireland, the lawyer who asked the Colorado Supreme Court to help Arridy, wrote, “Believe me when I say that if he is gassed, it will take the government of Colorado a long time to get over the shame.”
In 2011, more than 70 years after Arridy’s horrible death, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter gave him a posthumous clean bill of health. Ritter said that giving Arridy a pardon wouldn’t change the terrible thing that happened in Colorado’s past. “However, restoring his good name is the fair thing to do and the decent thing to do.”