Recently, I have been thinking a lot about death. How can we understand life if we don’t know about death? And since I can’t just die to find out, (or can I?), I try to understand what is going on in the mind of people who know that they will be dying soon? So I looked up stories about death-row inmates. Below are some of what I found. Warning: this is morbid and somewhat creepy. Proceed at your own risk.
1. “Windows on the Death Row” is a chilling and touching graphic series that does exactly what the title says it does. Between 2014 and 2015, the cartoonist Patrick Chappatte and his wife, the journalist Anne-Frédérique Widmann, invited death-row inmates in the United States to draw their personal experiences in prison. These drawings became the basis for this series.
2. Last statements of Death row inmates
Texas Department of Criminal Justice publishes its full list of 537 executed prisoners from 1982 up to now, with their last statements.The website also has a job list posting if you’re interested. Most statements are about forgiveness, gratitude, love and gods. Psychologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany used sentiment analysis to analyze those statements and found that “positivity was ‘significantly higher’ in their last statements than in usual speech and writing“. It’s hard to believe that the people who said this were the same people who potentially committed a crime worthy of capital punishment.
Here are some of the more interesting statements.
“Where’s my stunt double when you need one?” Vincent Gutierrez, executed in Texas onMarch 28, 2007 for a carjacking murder. I guess he made a killer joke.
“Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!” Carl Panzram, executed in Kansas on September 5, 1930 for 21 murders and over 1000 rapes and anal rapes. Now that’s someone who knows about productivity.
“Hey, how y’all doing out there?” David Hicks, executed in Texas onJanuary, 20, 2000 for sexual assault and beating death of his 87-year-old grandmother. I don’t know, man. How you doin’ on that death row?
“Let’s do it, man. Lock and load. Ain’t life a bitch?” G.W. Green, executed in Texas on November 12, 1991 for shooting a deputy sheriff. Somebody please make it into a song and sell it to Lil Wayne.
“I’m ready to roll. Time to get this party started,” James Jackson, executed in Texas on February 7, 2007 for a triple murder.
“Uh, I don’t know, Um, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know. (pauses) I didn’t know anybody was there. Howdy,” James Clark, executed in Texas on April 11, 2007 for robbery, rape, and murder of a 17-year-old girl. This made me incredibly sad. “I’m about to die, anybody’s here?”
“How’s this for a headline? ‘French Fries’,” James French, executed in Oklahoma on 10 August 1966 for murdering his cellmate. He said this right before his death by electric chair. French fries, get it? I hope it made it to the headlines.
“I did not get my Spaghetti-Os, I got spaghetti. I want the Press to know this,” Thomas J. Grasso, executed in Oklahoma on March 20, 1995 for two murders. Real vital information. Thanks for letting us know.
“I just want everyone to know that the prosecutor and Bill Scott are sorry sons of bitches.” Edward Ellis, executed in Texas on March 3, 1992 for capital murder. Damn it Bill Scott, what did you do?
“Hoka hey, it’s a good day to die,” Clarence Ray Allen, executed in California on January 17, 2006 for 3 murders. Everyday is a good day to die in California.
It made me think. What would I say if I knew I was to die in the next five minutes? What would my last words be? I guess it would depend on the circumstances of my executive, but oh my, this is morbid.
“So long and thanks for all the fish.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts, guys.”
“I’m innocent. Aren’t we all?”