Joe Arridy: The Mentally Disabled Man Who Went Smiling In The Gas Chamber For The Murder He Didn’t Commit

Joe Arridy was a mentally disabled man who was wrongfully convicted and executed for a crime he did not commit. Despite his intellectual disabilities, he was subjected to an intense and coercive interrogation that led him to falsely confess to the murder of a young girl.

Despite inconsistencies in his confession and evidence pointing to another suspect, local law enforcement remained convinced of his guilt. Three psychiatrists testified at his trial and declared him mentally handicapped with an IQ of 46 and the mind of a six-year-old, but Arridy was still found guilty and sentenced to death.

Arridy remained optimistic and reportedly smiled during his time on death row. When informed of his execution, he was more interested in his toy trains, and he requested ice cream for his last meal. He even gave his toy train to another prisoner before being led to the gas chamber, where he reportedly grinned as he was strapped into the chair.

Despite efforts to save his life, Joe Arridy was executed on January 6, 1939. His wrongful conviction and execution remain a tragic example of the flaws in the criminal justice system, especially when dealing with intellectually disabled individuals.