Richard Cooey of Ohio drew national attention when, just before his execution (see below), he argued that his obesity would make viable veins in his arms hard to find.
Cooey's lawyer said that the double murderer was 75 pounds heavier than when he went to death row because of prison food and inactivity. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed and the inmate, 267 pounds, was executed on Tuesday.
Obesity has been a point of contention before on the path from death row to execution chamber, or gallows.
We're not sure when it first became an issue, but the Cooey case reminds of an incident in the final days of the Old West.
Born Oct. 31, 1863, Thomas "Black Jack" Ketchum, a cowboy from San Saba County, Texas became a train robber and rode briefly with the Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang.
He was finally caught in 1899 following a botched train robbery in New Mexico. A gunshot wound to the arm resulted in it being amputated. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to hang at Clayton in northeastern New Mexico.
Ketchum (right) went to the gallows on April 26, 1901, cracking jokes with defiance.
His bravado was silenced, however, when the trap door swung open he was decapitated by the noose (below).
Some historians say this resulted from the executioners not knowing how to tie a hangman's knot. Others have said the rope was too long, or that it was still tied to a heavy sandbag that was used earlier to test the rope.
But another theory stated that Black Jack had put on a lot of weight while on death row, and the extra pounds helped gravity pull him down so fast that the rope severed his head.
Of course the incident has given rise to generations of kids in and around Clayton who have tried scaring each other with stories about the headless ghost of Black Jack Ketchum.
-- Bill Miller