A federal judge honored the demand of a condemned killer yesterday and dismissed a stay-of-execution appeal filed against his wishes.
Jesse Walter Bishop, scheduled to die in the gas chamber at Carson City on Monday, stood to tell U.S. District Court Judge Harry Claiborne that the public defender who had tried to delay his execution did not represent him and acted against his interests.
The 46-year-old Bishop objected to a writ of habeas corpus and a motion for stay of execution filed by the Clark County public defender's office. Deputy Public Defender Kirk Lenhard said he will appeal the judge's decision Friday to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. If the appeal is denied. Lenhard said the public defender's office would immediately seek a stay from a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Bishop, who at first avoided publicity, has given a number of interviews this week to underscore his desire that the case not be appealed any further.
The condemned man has said the waiting and uncertainty constitute "cruel and unusual punishment," and has declared that the lengthy process of appealing through the federal courts would only prolong the inevitable.
Sitting in a room within sight of the gas chamber in the Nevada state prison, Bishop said, "They're playing with me. The judge didn't sentence me to die in 1984 . . . Nevada has a mandatory appeal to the state Supreme Court and we've had this process. Now they want to force me to appeal some more, to wait in here just so the lawyers can play their games.
"I feel the end results will be the same -- in my case with my background there's nothing to fight -- and the only thing I can do is prolong it at my expense and the expense of the people who care about me. I feel that's cruel and unusual punishment."
Prison officials believe they will be called upon to carry out the death sentence and have repaired the apparatus that would send cyanide gas into the death room, unused since 1961. And they have moved Bishop into the "overnight room" across the narrow hall within 15 feet of the chamber.
Bishop grew up in tough east Los Angeles, where he started out with juvenile crime, stealing from the ice cream man and fruit vendors. He left home and joined the Army in 1950 when he was 17 and served in the Korean War as a paratrooper. He was wounded in battle, awarded a Purple Heart, and hospitalized in Japan. While recuperating, he discovered heroin and quickly developed an addiction. Returned to active duty, he was arrested for possession of heroin and court martialed. He served a two-year sentence in the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. and was dishonorably discharged.
Bishop said he hadn't held a steady job since, but robbed and dealt drugs instead. He spent nearly 20 of the next 30 years in various California prisons, and was on parole when he committed the Las Vegas murder two years ago that resulted in the death sentence.
The man he murdered, David Ballard, honeymooner from Balitmore, tried to thwart Bishop's holdup of a casino before he realized that Bishop had a gun.
Asked if he felt any remorse for the man he killed, Bishop responded, "Not really . . . he got involved in something that was none of his business. He was a fool really." Bishop said he recalled that Ballard belatedly realized he was armed and that Ballard turned around and tried to withdraw. Bishop shot him in the back anyway.
"If I had hesitated, I would have realized I wouldn't have had to shoot him, but if you hesitate he might have been a guard with a gun, and I'm not going to give anybody that chance. I've got that pistol for the same reason they [police officers] have theirs -- to use it. I'll shoot them as fast as they'll shoot me. Faster." he said.
Bishop who was wounded in his getaway in the 1977 robbery, said it was not the first time he had engaged in gunplay. And though he refused to elaborate, he said quietly that it was not the first time he had killed someone. He said homicide detectives had visited him in prison, trying to clear up unsolved murders in a number of cases. Asked if he had told them anything, he replied, "Do you think my last act in this life is to turn into a rat? Anything I know is going into that gas chamber with me . . . I'd kill two-legged rats the way you people kill four-legged rats."
Earlier Bishop had said, "My only regret in life is that I won't get to shoot any more good dope and lay with any more long-legged women. And I don't give a damn about their gas chamber."
Asked if he was ready to die, Bishop said that death was a hazard of his profession, one he has always accepted. "Sure I'm ready. I've been ready all my life. What's the difference between the gas chamber and getting shot down in the street . . . ?