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 1871
“Look at me! I no cry; I no woman; I man. I die brave!”
— John Boyer, convicted of murder, hanging, Wyoming.
Executed April 21, 1871
Son of a Frenchman and a Sioux Indian woman, Boyer was convicted of murdering two people he suspected of raping his mother and sister. At one point he escaped by simply walking out past a prison guard, but he was again arrested. Boyer’s case drew much media attention as the first legal execution in Wyoming’s history.
This week in 2005
“…I’ve been hanging around this Popsicle stand way too long. Before I leave, I want to tell you all. When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head and rock and roll me when I’m dead. I’ll see you in heaven someday. That’s all warden.”
— Douglas Roberts, convicted of kidnapping, robbery and murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed April 20, 2005
His first dose of cocaine had been at age ten, Roberts said. He was “stoned out of [his] mind” when he stole a car and robbed and killed a man. After the murder, Roberts called police from a pay phone and waited for them to pick him up. He refused all appeals after his first failed, as he saw his execution as a way out of the “23 hours a day in a cement box.” “So if you’ve got to spend the rest of your life like this, and if you’re like me and know the Lord, then today’s a good day to go,” Roberts said.
This week in 1934
“. . . The thought never occurred to anyone during the trial to show the circumstances of John Scheck as a mere boy who was lured and tempted into the life of crime because of his intense devotion to his parents and to his home that they were about to be deprived of as victims of a nationwide economic depression . . .”
— John Scheck, convicted of murder, electric chair, Illinois.
Executed April 20, 1934
Bank robber Scheck, twenty-one, held on a murder charge, killed policeman John G. Sevick in an escape attempt from a courtroom. The shocking crime led to “the court’s war on crime, and he was among the first hit by the reaction,” wrote the Chicago Daily Tribune.