Gary Mark Gilmore (December 4, 1940 - January 17, 1977) was an American who gained international notoriety for demanding the fulfillment of his own sentence of death. He became the first person executed in the United States in ten years, and was executed by firing squad at Utah State Prison in 1977.
On the evening of July 19, 1976, Gilmore robbed and murdered Max Jensen, a Sinclair gas station employee in Orem, Utah. The next evening, he robbed and murdered Bennie Bushnell, a motel manager at City Center Inn in Provo. Even though they had complied with his demands, he murdered both men. While disposing of the .22 caliber pistol used in both killings, Gilmore accidentally shot himself in his right hand, leaving a trail of blood back to the service garage, where he had left his truck to be repaired prior to murdering Bushnell.
Garage mechanic Michael Simpson witnessed Gilmore hiding the gun in the bushes. Seeing the blood on Gilmore's crudely bandaged right hand when he approached to pay for the repairs to his truck, and hearing on a police scanner of the shooting at the nearby motel, Simpson wrote down Gilmore's license number and called the police after Gilmore left. Gilmore's cousin, Brenda, turned him in to police shortly after he phoned her asking for bandages and painkillers for the injury to his hand. The Utah State Police apprehended Gilmore as he tried to drive out of Provo, and he gave up without attempting to flee. He was charged with the murders of Bushnell and Jensen, although the latter case was never brought to trial, apparently because there were no eyewitnesses.
Gilmore's murder trial began at the Provo courthouse on October 5, 1976 and lasted all of two days. On October 7, at 10:13 a.m., the jury retired to deliberate. By mid-day, they had returned with a guilty verdict. Later that day, the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty, due to the special circumstances of the crime.
Against his express wishes, Gilmore received several stays of execution through the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The last of these occurred just hours before the re-scheduled execution date of January 17. That stay was overturned at 7:30 a.m., and the execution was allowed to proceed as planned. At a Board of Pardons hearing in November 1976, Gilmore said of the efforts by the ACLU and others to prevent his January 17, 1977, execution: "They always want to get in on the act. I don't think they have ever really done anything effective in their lives. I would like them all -- including that group of reverends and rabbis from Salt Lake City -- to butt out. This is my life and this is my death. It's been sanctioned by the courts that I die and I accept that."
Gilmore was executed on January 17, 1977, at 8:07 a.m. by firing squad at Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. The night before, Gilmore had requested an all-night gathering of friends and family at the prison mess hall. On the evening before his execution, he was served a last meal of steak, potatoes, milk and coffee; he consumed only the milk and coffee.
Gilmore had requested that his organs be donated for transplant purposes. Within hours of the execution, two people received his corneas. His body was then sent for autopsy and was cremated later that day. The following day, his ashes were scattered from an airplane over Spanish Fork, Utah.