Executions · Missouri

Man executed for killing friend who refused to buy him a drink

April 1, 1955
Jefferson City, Missouri
Dock Booker is executed for the shooting death of his friend Earl Harrison after Harrison refuses to buy Booker a drink

Booker and Harrison, both baseball pitchers, had previously had arguments over which was the better player. With tensions between the two already high, the two men visited the same bar at approximately the same time on August 15, 1953. Booker requested a drink from Harrison who replied, “I’m not going to buy you a God Damn thing.” Booker retorted with, “As many drinks as I’ve bought you, and you won’t buy me one.” The argument between the two grew and both men were ordered to leave the premises, the owner making the men use different exits to keep the hostilities from escalating.

Booker retrieved a loaded revolver he had left at his sister’s lunch counter and caught up with Harrison. Booker claimed the shooting was both accidental and self-defense: Harrison threatened him with a knife, a scuffle ensued, the pistol accidentally discharged, and Harrison was fatally wounded. (Harrison lingered for a few days, succumbing to his wounds on August 21.) Contradicting Booker’s statement, witnesses testified no scuffle occurred and Harrison made no threats. Due to the witnesses testimony, Booker was convicted and sentenced to death.

As Booker’s execution neared, Penitentiary officials became increasingly nervous the inmates would riot; Booker’s execution was the first since a prison-wide riot in 1954 claimed the lives of 4, left 29 injured, and caused over $5 million in damages. Though guards and other prison personnel were prepared, no riots were sparked from Booker’s execution.

Sources:
“Dock Booker.” Missouri Pen Tours. Accessed: April 1, 2019. https://www.missouripentours.com/display_inmate?id=906
“Riot of 1954.” Missouri Pen Tours. Accessed: April 1, 2019. https://www.missouripentours.com/1954-riot
276 S.W.2d 104 (1955). STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Dock BOOKER, Appellant. Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc. February 14, 1955. https://www.leagle.com/decision/1955380276sw2d1041376
“Faulty Gas Chamber Drags Out Execution.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 1, 1955
“Donnelly Refuses To Stay Execution Of Dock Booker.” Macon Chronicle-Herald. March 30, 1955
“Court Upholds Death Penalty On St. Louisan.” Moberly Monitor-Index. February 15, 1955

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