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 2001
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
She smiled at her spiritual advisers and attorneys and stuck out her tongue.
— Wanda Jean Allen, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Oklahoma.
Executed January 11, 2001
Allen was convicted in the shooting death of Gloria J. Leathers, her lover. Her case gained national attention when Amnesty International and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty pleaded for clemency. Rev. Jessie Jackson led protesters in Oklahoma City, where he and others were arrested after crossing a police barricade at Allen’s prison. Allen had previously served time for the shooting death of a roommate.
Documentarian Liz Garbus covered Allen’s life story and death in 2002’s “The Execution of Wanda Jean.”
This week in 2001
“You people over there. You know what these people are doing. By them executing me ain’t doing nothing right. I don’t weigh 180 pounds and 5’7”. Take care, love y’all… ”
— Vincent Cooks, convicted of murder, lethal injection,Texas.
Executed December 12, 2001
Cooks stood 6’3″ and weighed three hundred pounds. Witnesses of a robbery in which a police officer was killed identified a significantly shorter, slimmer man as the perpetrator. However, Cooks stood trial and was convicted of murder.
This week in 1931
“O my God, I am sorry for having offended thee.”
— Willie Green, convicted of murder, electric chair, Illinois.
Executed December 11, 1931
The Chicago Daily Tribune recorded little about Green, age thirtyone, who faced the electric chair for killing grocer Max Newman. He was executed the same day as three other convicted murderers at the Southern Illinois Penitentiary in Menard. He delivered his last words while shaking hands with a priest.