Herbert Morrison watches as one of his cellmates sweats and pleads and whimpers like a baby on the way to the gas chamber, hoping desperately to get a stay of execution. The other men on death row encourage him, trying to keep hope alive. Nonetheless, he's put to death. Meanwhile, the Padre in charge of the block speaks to Morrison about his philosophy, and Herbert informs him that he's not interested in a stay, nor any other rituals. He wants to die like a man, not "play games" with the state.
More than any of the other guards, Morrison detests a man known as Pops Lafferty who continually tries to cheer up inmates on death row. Morrison sees through Lafferty and realizes that he actually is a manipulator and a sadist.
The day of Morrison's execution, his attorney meets with him and tells him that he's reasonably sure that he can get a stay. Morrison doesn't want a stay, he declares; rather, he wants a full pardon. His attorney pleads with him but finally gives up as Morrison politely refuses.
As the hour is up, Morrison politely and gently goes with the guards. At the last second, when the door to the chamber is opened, Morrison turns and attacks Pops, choking him. Morrison is punched by the guards and beaten unconscious. Taken back to his cell, the warden greets him an hour later with a stay of execution, and informs him that a witness had come forward and cleared him of the murder that put him on death row. Unfortunately, both the pardon and the stay are void, as Morrison learns that Pops is dead - murdered by him, and that not only does Morrison now face life in the slammer, but he'll get to know how bad life can be for a prisoner who killed a guard.