Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, has praised the project and called it, “A dangerous book…” This is a nonpolitical work, simply asking, “If these are the most reviled, outcast members of society—why does it remain a cultural value to record what they say?”
This is the history of capital punishment in America, told from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney.
Each day, we are posting excerpts from the book, plus outtakes, by date of execution. See below:
This week in 1913
“Four perjurers sent me to this. I did not have a fair trial. I am a Socialist and would rather die than live under the present oligarchy. It was a long, hard fight I made, but I lost. I surrender, but am not conquered. I will take my medicine. There have been none in my family who would not take his medicine.”
— John Goodwin, convicted of murder, hanging, Arizona.
Executed May 13, 1913
After he deserted the army at Fort Apache with his friend William Stewart, Goodwin killed two men who had gone to the San Carlos Reservation to hunt deer. One of the deer hunters had kicked Stewart’s dog after it bit him. Goodwin and Stewart were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, but their lawyer thought he could reduce the sentence with a retrial.
The new verdict led Goodwin to the gallows.
This week in 1993
“I am an innocent man, and something very wrong is taking place tonight. May God bless you all. I am ready.”
— Leonel Torres Herrera, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed May 12, 1993
Herrera was convicted in 1981 for the shooting death of a Los Fresnos police officer. Before he died, the officer, Enrique Carrisalez, identified Herrera from a police mug shot. At the time, authorities argued, Herrera was fleeing the scene of the murder of another public safety officer—a crime Herrera later pleaded guilty to.
Years later, attorneys argued that it was actually Leonel’s brother Raul (murdered in 1984) who had committed—and confessed to—both killings and supplied sworn affidavits from witnesses who claimed to hear the confessions. The case, Herrera v. Collins, made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice William Rehnquist ruled that Herrera’s “actual innocence” claim did not warrant federal habeas corpus relief.
This week in 2000
“…I apologize and for any other grief I have caused you know, including the, ah, what you’re about to witness now. It won’t be very long. As soon as you realize that [it will] appear I am falling asleep. I would leave because I won’t be here after that point. I will be dead at that point. It’s irreversible. God bless all of you. Thank you.”
— Michael Lee Mcbride, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed May 11, 2000
After a tumultuous eleven-month relationship, during which McBride, a bartender, moved closer to Texas Tech University to be with Christian Fisher, his ex-girlfriend, he shot Fisher and a friend to death outside his apartment. He proceeded to shoot himself in the head but survived to tell a male nurse, “If you ever need any pointers of information on how to handle your women, just let me know.”