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 1901
“If I only knew my family would not be in want I could die in peace.”
— George Dolinski, convicted of murder, Illinois. Executed October 11, 1901
Dolinski’s wife ended a visit with her parents and hurried across the Atlantic to prove that her husband was innocent of her murder. When she arrived, she discovered that she had been misinformed: it was for the murder of her brother-in-law Anton Lisle that Dolinski had been arrested. Reportedly, Dolinski had become infatuated with his wife’s sister, Mrs. Lisle. Anton Lisle was found in a pasture with his throat cut and four bullets in his body. Dolinski claimed that he and his brother-in-law had fought about money and he was forced to shoot Lisle in self-defense. The Chicago Daily recorded different last words: “I have got this to say. I am not guilty of killing that man. I—I—”
This week in 2002
“I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the Rock and I’ll be back like ‘Independence Day’ with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mother ship and all. I’ll be back.”
— Aileen Wuornos, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Florida.
Executed October 9, 2002
Wuornos was labeled a serial killer for murdering seven men in less than twelve months. The life of Wuornos, from her abusive childhood to her life as a teenage prostitute, became the focus of the 2003 film “Monster” and two documentaries by Nick Broomfield. On the day of her execution, she told Broomfield that the police framed her and used sonic waves to control her. State psychiatrists decided that she was mentally competent for execution. Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her portrayal of Wuornos in “Monster.”
This week in 1789
“And now, into the hands of Almighty God I commit my soul, relying on his mercy, through the merits and mediation of my Redeemer, and die an unworthy member of the Presbyterian Church, in the 29th year of my age.”
— Rachel Wall, convicted of highway robbery, hanging, Massachusetts.
Executed October 8, 1789
Pennsylvania native Wall left home to marry a man her parents didn’t approve of. Reportedly, the man was a thief who schooled his new bride in his trade. Wall faced the gallows for robbing a Miss Bendar.