Saturday, April 23, 2011
Gallows Humor at the Gallows, a True Story
Menard, IL--This is where a truly horrible man was executed on 22 November 1995. I'm no fan of the death penalty but I remember well a monstrous murder committed by three North side, Chicago lads my own age in December of 1965.
66 year-old, Fred Christensen went for a stroll on Waveland Avenue when he encountered three boys including a then,16 year old George Delvecchio armed with a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle. The trio robbed and shot Christensen eleven times because he only had $11.00 to surrender.
This news story was big and the confessed killers said they were high on speed pills that were called "goofballs" back then.
This crime and its punishment was settled in a plea agreement for Delvecchio that committed him to a juvenile institution until he was 21. He was later transferred to an adult prison but was released after only serving eight years total. They said he had be reformed.
In December of 1977 Delvecchio met Karen Canzoneri and was briefly a guest in her home. Delvecchio left only to return later, uninvited as he forced his way into her home raping her after slashing the throat of her six year-old son Tony, killing the boy.
Delvecchio was profiled again in the news for yet another sensational murder. He went through the criminal justice system that was not so kind to him this time. Delvecchio was sentenced to a well-deserved death penalty for this unspeakable act.
In the 22 year fight to spare Delvecchio's life, was a young lawyer, who came to know the killer. Jed Stone. Stone said this fellow was now a different person and was worth receiving clemency. However, the appeals ran out and on 22 November 1995 George Delvecchio was set to take his last walk to the death chamber from his deathwatch cell.
Present was the warden, chaplain, guards and Jed Stone. Delvecchio was resigned to his grim fate and had given away his meager possession to other inmates like a radio he owned. He apologized to Stone he had nothing left to give him. Delvecchio discovered he had something after all, his inmate ID card! He offered it to Stone who thanked him for it as he placed it into his shirt pocket.
Soon Delveccho hugged the sad lawyer and the two began the walk to their respective places. Delvecchio headed to the lethal injection chamber and Stone to the witness room. Suddenly Delvecchio stopped and exclaimed, "there's a terrible mistake!" He said he was not in fact, Delvecchio and pointed to the astonished lawyer saying, "He's George Delvecchio and he has the ID card in his pocket to prove it!"
Amazingly Stone and his condemned client were very similar in age and appearance as the two photos above demonstrate. The ruse was accepted for what it was and Delvecchio was strapped down and killed. As always the executioner used a alcohol swab to clean the injection site to make sure the condemned man would not get an infection later.
I just had the great pleasure of working with Stone on a Chicago trial. Stone has distinguished himself in a great legal career that included the release of several notorious wrongfully convicted and condemned men such as Rolando Cruz in DuPage County.
This and other great stories are now in my briefcase and on their way to Hollywood.