Nevada Appeal at 150: Feb. 2, 1924 — Gee Jon executed at prison

Feb. 9, 1924

Feb. 9, 1924

This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.

Gee Jon Executed At Prison Yesterday

Gee Jon, Chinese tong gun man yesterday paid the extreme penalty for murder in the lethal gas chamber.

The first to die by the new method of infliction of capital punishment, Jon was declared unconscious by watching physicians within four or five seconds after inhaling the first whiff of the hydrocyanic acid gas. There was no evidence of suffering or pain.

Witnesses, including Warden Dickerson who has been opposed to the lethal gas method, now say that for the condemned man execution in the gas chamber is far better than either hanging or shooting. The warden’s only remaining objection is the element of danger to the persons who handle the gas and apparatus and to the witnesses.

When all was in readiness for the execution thirty-odd persons, including the six required witnesses and thirteen newspaper representatives were ushered into the yard and stationed back of a line a short distance away from the gas chamber.

Gee Jon, bareheaded, his wrists strapped to leather bands encircling his legs, walking between two prison officials, was led from his cell, through the yard, past the waiting crowd and into the chamber of death. With two straps he was bound to a wooden chair placed in the center of the middle compartment of the three-cell cage. When called to prepare for death Gee Jon had spoken no word, though he was heard to sob. He was plainly somewhat weak and shaken as he was marched from the condemned cell to the state’s house of death. His eyes were opened wide but he took little notice of the curious, watching men. Thursday night he had been granted the privilege of a visit from two of his countrymen with whom he made his last earthly arrangements. Jon slept fairly well his last night and in the morning partook of a fairly hearty breakfast. Probably he yielded to the demands of nature for more rest and food than nervousness and apprehensiveness of the previous day had permitted.

Left in the narrow cell the Chinaman looked around and at the watchers at the east window he was facing with curiosity.

A few moments after the cell door had clanked shut and been locked and the guards had left the chamber and closed the airtight door Gee Jon heard hissing as the two and three quarters pounds of hydrocyanic acid were admitted to the room with its temperature of forty-nine degrees. He raised his head and looked around as far as possible in the attempt to see what caused the strange noise.

In a few seconds it was evident that Jon had inhaled the deadly vapor. He threw his head back, his eyes rolled a couple of times and the head dropped forward. The doctors declared that Jon suffered no pain, that he was unconscious in less than five seconds, though movements of head and body did not entirely cease for six minutes.

None of the witnesses who stood massed, row back of row in front of the observation window suffered any ill effects of the small quantity of gas that escaped from the building, though some claim to have detected a very faint odor and others were aware of the characteristic taste.

Missing from former executions in this state were the crack or rifles, the streaming and trickling of the victim’s blood, the dull thud and the creaking of a rope as a trap was sprung.

When all was over Gee Jon sat huddled in the death chair, head dropped forward on chest, features not distorted with pain or agony but more of a yellowish hue than noticed when blood was coursing in his veins. There was no mutilation of the body, no broken bones, no gaping bullet wounds, no scorched and burned flesh.

The gas was admitted to the chamber at forty minutes after nine o’clock. On advice of the prison physician no one was admitted to the death chamber until after twelve o’clock.


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