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Convicted Killer Paul Crump Spared the Electric Chair by Illinois Governor

Aug. 1, 1962 - Illinois Governor Otto Kerner spared Paul Crump (pictured), a condemned killer, from the electric chair today and ruled that he must spend the rest of his life in prison with no hope of freedom. The Governor commuted the 32-year-old Negro’s death sentence only 32 hours before Crump was to die in Chicago’s electric chair. Crump’s sentence was changed to 199 years’ imprisonment “without parole.” Governor Kerner’s decision ended a 9-year legal battle in which Crump had received 14 stays of execution, 5 more than Caryl Chessman had been granted before he was executed in California. Crump, who had expressed a desire “to live so that I may justify my life,” broke into sobs when he got word of the commutation. “I thank God, Governor Kerner, and all the many, many people who worked to bring this case to the Governor’s attention,” Crump said. The Governor said he was convinced, after a long study of the record, that “the embittered, distorted man who committed a vicious murder no longer exists.” “Under these circumstances, it would serve no useful purpose to society to take this man’s life,” Gov. Kerner said. Crump was twice convicted of killing an unarmed guard, Theodore P. Zukowski, during a $20,000 robbery of a Chicago stockyards plant in March 1953. He admitted the killing, then repudiated his admission. His first conviction was reversed by the Illinois Supreme Court, but a second trial resulted in a death sentence. Crump’s lawyers admitted he had been an “illiterate, beastly, animalistic criminal” when he first was imprisoned. They presented affidavits and testimony, however, from prominent clergymen, prison officials, and others to prove a “miracle of rehabilitation.” Friends of Crump, including Warden Jack Johnson of the Cook County Jail, said he had performed “a thousand acts of contrition” in befriending other prisoners. During his long wait, Crump wrote a novel, “Burn, Killer, Burn,” which is to be published in a few months.


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