Samuel Richard Shockley, Jr. (January 12, 1909 – December 3, 1948) was an inmate at Alcatraz prison, with the prison number 462-AZ, who was believed to have a share in the Alcatraz uprising or Battle of Alcatraz in 1946. Two prison guards died. Bill Miller was shot by Joe Cretzer, and Harold Stites was mistakenly shot by the officers on the hill outside who were firing into the D block. Three inmates, Bernie Coy, Joe Cretzer and Marv Hubbard, were all killed by countless rounds of rifle fire, grenades, tear gas and deck gun shells of the Coast Guard, US Marine Corps, Prison and Police Department. It was assumed that the inmates had obtain automatic rifles and the uprising was organized by six inmates : Clarence Carnes Inmate 714-AZ, Bernard Coy Inmate 415-AZ, Sam Shockley Inmate 462-AZ, Miran Thompson Inmate 729-AZ, Joseph Paul Cretzer Inmate 548-AZ and Marvin Hubbard Inmate 645-AZ. Mainly by the bias of the sensation-loving press and media, they were already labeled killers.
Sam Shockley was the son of Richard "Dick" Shockley, and Annyer Eugenia Bearden, who died when Samuel was 7 years old. He was born in Cerrogordo Caney Township, Little River County, Arkansas. His father was a sharecropper with eight children. By his first wife Norma Louise Bearden: Bryant Lunsford in 1889, and by Annyer Eugenia Bearden, his second wife: Myrtle Lee in 1900, Frank in 1901, Anna Belle in 1904, Patrick in 1907, Samuel Richard in 1909, and Ruth in 1913, Richard Samuel born in 1918 by his third wife, Sally Barton, who died of malaria fever in 1920. As a newborn baby, Sam survived an accident when his 9-year-old sister, Myrtle, looked after the children during the day, while their parents worked the land. The girl had Sam on her arm when she came too close to the fireplace and her dress caught fire. In panic, she ran out of the house, still holding Sam. There she threw Sam away and collapsed. Both children were lying outside for six hours, covered in burns. Baby Sam had taken a hard blow from the fall. Samuel Shockley was taken out of school by his father when he was twelve years old and strong enough to work the fields. His formal education ended at the third grade, and by the age of thirteen he exhibited signs of serious instability. Sam started running away from home after the death of his stepmother. His father died in 1932. Sam left the family in 1927 and became a transient. Soon after he hit the road he was arrested for stealing chickens, automobile tires and accessories in Garvin County and was sent for one year to the Oklahoma State Reformatory at Granite, Oklahoma. He received the Granit prison number OSR-6695.
While in prison Sam Shockley was beaten by a fellow inmate, suffering brain damage and numerous scars on his head and neck. He was released in July 1929, but he sustained a second beating by a police officer, which inflicted further head trauma. On June, 1936, Shockley married Betty Moore (born 1923 in Shoshone Idaho), but the marriage only lasted 1.5 years. They divorce on June 1939. Sam Shockley and Edward Johnson were arrested in March 1938 for robbing a man of his car, bank robbery and kidnapping Mr and Mrs D.F. Pendley, both employees of the bank of Paoli, Oklahoma, and sentenced to life imprisonment at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas on May 16, 1938. He received the prison number 53148L, and cell number G-215. Examined by prison psychiatrists at Leavenworth, it was determined that Sam Shockley had a low IQ of 68 and the mental age of a 10-year 10-month-old child. He suffered episodes of hallucinations and demonstrated serious emotional instability. He was incapable of coping with the normal prison environment, presenting a risk to himself and others. Rather than confine the obviously mentally deranged prisoner in the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Springfield, Missouri, the administration of Leavenworth sent him to Alcatraz on September 23, 1938.
When he was transferred to Alcatraz from Leavenworth, it was felt the strict routine there would better manage him. Throughout the early 1940s at Alcatraz, Sam Shockley's condition continued to deteriorate because he was placed for 3 years in the D block isolation section, and for most of the time in the Hole or Dungeon, the darkened stripped cells on the ground level. Here he spent most of his time in darkness. At night, he was only allowed a blanket and a mattress, during the rest of the day he was sitting and lying on the cold concrete. He displayed classic schizophrenic symptoms: delusions, auditory hallucinations, and disorientation. At Alcatraz, Sam Shockley's mental condition worsened. His IQ dropped to 54, indicating a mental age of an eight-year-old child. In 1942 the Alcatraz prison physician described Sam Shockley as emotionally very unstable with episodes of hallucinations. On 21 May 1941, there was an attempted escape from one of the island's workshops involving Joe Cretzer, Arnold "Shorty" Kyle 547-AZ, Lloyd Barkdoll 423-AZ (an Oregon bankrobber), and Sam Shockley. During the escape attempt from the mat shop, the men held a number of guards hostage. The convicts began sawing through the bars from the inside. After an hour, the convicts were unable to cut through the steel bars. The convicts surrendered after Captain Paul Madigan, captain of the guard, arrived in the mat shop and the hostages were released unharmed. Lloyd Barkdoll managed to speak with Warden James Johnston and convinced him that Shockley was not involved in the plot. Sam Shockley was released and sent back to his cell.
On May 2, 1946, during the escape the inmates Bernard Coy, Joseph Cretzer, and Marvin Hubbard took custodial guard Cecil Corwin by surprise. They opened the D isolation cell block door to free Rufus Whitey Franklin, who was still confined to the isolation cell and for all Coy knew, still in the darkened solitary cell behind two sets of doors; the outer door was made of solid steel and the inner door was electronically operated and barred.
Bernie Coy had planned to take control of the cell house and D block so that Rufus Franklin could be released once the escape was underway. Although it appeared to the inmates that they had all the cell house keys, none of them fit the lock in the rear door of the cell house which led to the recreation yard. It was through this door that the convicts intended to leave the cell house. The key 107 opened the rear door to the recreation yard but custodial guard Joseph Burdett hid this key under the wall seat of cell 404. The escape attempt failed due to the jamming of the recreation yard door lock, because if the wrong key was used and tried several times the system would block completely. All this turned into an armed confrontation which lasted 48 hours. Two custodial guards, Bill Miller and Harold Stites, and three inmates, Coy, Cretzer and Hubbard, were killed. Three guards were critically injured and 10 more guards sustained lesser injuries.
Lawyer William A. Sullivan, who was appointed by Judge Louis Goodman to defend Sam Shockley in the Alcatraz Trial, elicited from Carl W. Sundstrom, custodial guard, that at no time did he ever see a weapon in Shockley's hands. Shockley did attack Sundstrom, but Sundstrom never was injured by him. Sundstrom also stated that Sam Shockley was running around and acting like a crazy man. Other inmates such as Jack Pepper 589-AZ, James Quillen 586-AZ, Howard Butler 544-AZ, Edwin Sharp 689-AZ and Louis Fleish 574-AZ, made statements that Sam Shockley was running up and down the corridors carrying a wrench and wearing an officer's jacket several sizes too large for him. He looked like a clown, which amused the onlookers. He repeatedly swore at the hostages. Also the men all established that Shockley was in the D block when the shooting began that injured the guards taken hostage, and later killed guard W.H. Miller.
Joseph Moyle, inmate 561-AZ, testified that Sam Shockley did not say anything; he was just standing at the hostage cells, and he did not think Sam Shockley knew what was going on. He, and other inmates who testified in court, denied that they ever heard Sam Shockley urge Joseph Cretzer to shoot the guards. Sam Shockley was not a part of the plan at all and merely tagged along because no one told him he could not. If Sam Shockley was to have been a key figure in helping Bernie Coy enter the gun gallery, he would not have risked being placed in a solitary cell by smashing and setting fire to his cell in the riot of March 1946. If there had been enough solitary cells available, Sam Shockley was, like Rufus Franklin 335-AZ, locked up in one of these solitary cells. The failure to release Rufus Franklin was a good indication that no one in D Block had been aware of the break prior to its occurrence. Joseph Moyle agreed to testify as an important defense witness but Sullivan got a letter, handed to him by Warden Johnston, in which Moyle declared that he no longer wished to be summoned as a witness in the court case because it would not be in his interest. With this, Sullivan lost one of his best witnesses in the case.
A motion for a separate trial for each of the defendants, on the ground that they could not get a fair trial if they were tried together because the acts of each defendant would be considered by the jury to be acts of all, was denied by Federal District Court Judge Louis Goodman. Also, a transfer of the trial, on the ground that the widespread adverse publicity and press coverage would prevent the defendants from obtaining a fair trial, Judge Goodman denied. A request for two lawyers to assist Sam Shockley was rejected, though in a weighty court case, where the death penalty can be demanded, it is very common that the defendant may take two lawyers for defense. Also, a request for an independent psychiatrist doctor to testify that Shockley was mentally ill or insane was refused. Dr. Alden, the court-appointed psychiatrist, was the only medical witness to testify regarding the issue of Shockley's sanity. Dr. Alden had only an hour to examine Sam Shockley.
The Henri Young trial in 1941 has a lot of parallels with Sam Shockley's trial. Both were non-aggressive and mentally handicapped men. Both had been confined for lengthy periods of time in isolation and had long records of minor misbehaviors for which they suffered harsh punishments. Both men had almost complete lack of recall of the events for which they were on trial. Frank Hennessy, the U.S. Attorney, and Judge Goodman feared a second Henri Young trial, in which the jury publicly attacked Warden Johnston's administration as cruel and inhumane, and demanded that Alcatraz be closed and the Administration investigated by Federal authorities.
Sam Shockley, along with Miran Thompson and Clarence Carnes, was found guilty of murder in the first degree at their trial December 21st 1946, before the Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Nineteen-year-old Clarence "Joe" Carnes was spared the death penalty after some custodial officers who had been taken hostage testified that he had refrained from following instructions from Cretzer to kill them, but also due to the strong defense of his lawyer, Archer Zamloch. Although Sam Shockley's lawyer, W.A. Sullivan, pleaded insanity, Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson both received death sentences, to the great disbelief of their lawyers and even the prosecuting U.S. attorney, Hennessy. President Truman, a good friend of Warden Johnston, denied the bid for clemency. Sam Shockley, prison number San Quentin A-5141, accepted his fate and rejected any further efforts to stay the execution. They were executed simultaneously in the San Quentin gas chamber on December 3th 1948. Sam Shockley is buried at Pollard cemetery, Haworth, McCurtain County, Oklahoma.
. Inside Alcatraz, my time on the rock - by Jim Quillen. Arrow Books - ISBN 9781784750664
- Alcatraz Justice - The Rock's most famous Murder trial by Ernest B. Lageson. Creative Arts Book CA Book ID 15836/ ISBN 088739-408-6
- Battle at Alcatraz - A Desperate Attempt to Escape the Rock by Ernest B. Lageson. ISBN 1-886039-37-2
- https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/166/704/1475755/ on 2019-03-23
- http://www.sfgenealogy.org/sf/history/sfoealcb.htm on 2019-03-30
- http://www.notfrisco2.com/alcatraz/bios/hyoung/hyoung5.html 2019-04-03
- https://samshockley.blogspot.com/ 2020-01-25