The story of the freakish execution that Sam tells Adam, about a condemned prisoner beating his head against a metal pole inside the gas chamber, is a true story. It happened to Mississippian Jimmy Lee Gray in 1983.
The character of Rollie Wedge was beefed up considerably from the novel with the aim that Jack Nicholson would play him. Things didn't quite go according to plan and the part went to the lesser known actor, Raymond J. Barry, instead.
The film debut of Bo Jackson, who was a celebrated two-sport baseball and football player. He was cast by the producers because of both his charms and the intimidating stature both that would be perfect for the role of a prison guard.
During the execution scene at the end of the film, one of the members of the crowd cheering and holding scenes at the prison holds up a cardboard sign reading, "suck gas, evildoer". This is the trademark battle cry of Darkwing Duck, from the Disney TV series about a duck superhero who uses a gas weapon against criminals.