Last Words of the Executed A death penalty book by Robert K. Elder, with a foreword by Studs Terkel. Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, has praised the project and called it, “A dangerous book…” This is the history of capital punishment in America, told from the gallows, the front of the firing squad, the electric chair, the gas chamber, and the lethal injection gurney. 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?” Other keywords: hanging, noose, execution Sun, 11 Feb 2018 20:30:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This week in 1871 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:01:50 +0000 “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 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:01:08 +0000 “…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 Tue, 21 Apr 2015 13:01:57 +0000 “. . . 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.

This week in 1995 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:01:21 +0000 “Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder; justice is coming. I wouldn’t trade places with you or any of your
cronies. Hell has victories; I am at peace.”

— Richard Snell, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Arkansas.
Executed April 19, 1995

A white supremacist, Snell expressed no regret for killing a Jewish businessman during a robbery and a black police officer during a traffic stop. Snell quoted Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess and told the clemency board that he would “probably” shoot the officer again “under the same circumstances.”

This week in 1858 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 13:01:11 +0000 “I wish to speak a few words to my German countrymen…Keep away from bad company, and let liquor alone. Do not
covet the money of others, and do not let your wish for money lead you into crime. I implore you to get religion, to go to church, and to pray to God, for there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine that need no repentance. Be warned by me, and do not commit sin. Amen.”

— Albert Staub, convicted of murder, hanging, Illinois.
Executed April 20, 1858

Originally from Switzerland, twenty- two-year-old Staub immigrated to the United States ten months before his execution for the murder of Peter Lauermann. According to a Chicago Tribune article, Staub killed Lauermann either for his horse and team or because of a political argument that turned physical. On the gallows, he spoke for five minutes in German. The above quotation is a translation “in substance” by a reporter at the scene.

This week in 1928 Sun, 19 Apr 2015 13:01:35 +0000 “Beautiful world . . . I’ve forgiven everybody. . . . I haven’t a thing to say. Turn ’er loose. . . . Good-bye, Doc. . . . You’re
a wonderful old boy. I haven’t got a thing against anybody in the world. I forgive everybody. I can do that because
of this wonderful Jewish rabbi. That’s all. Good-bye.”

— Charles Birger, convicted of murder, hanging, Illinois.
Executed April 19, 1928

A gang leader in southern Illinois, Birger was convicted of hiring two men to murder the mayor of West City. Birger scoffed and jeered during his sanity trial while deputies were trying to testify, and at one point he got up and remarked, “We’ll take a smoke on that, judge, as you can’t do any more to me than you already have.”

When asked where he wanted to be buried, Birger said, “A Catholic cemetery because that’s the last place the devil would look for a Jew.”

This week in 2009 Sat, 18 Apr 2015 13:01:04 +0000 “I just hope God’s will be done and everybody finds the peace they need. I’m good.”

— Jimmy Lee Dill, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Alabama.
Executed April 16, 2009

Dill killed Leon Shaw during a robbery of money and cocaine in 1988. The victim’s son, Leon Shaw Jr., attended Dill’s execution with his mother and two of Dill’s nieces.

“I told him I forgave him,” Leon Shaw Jr. said afterward. “I see him as a victim, a victim of his raising, a victim of the circumstances. I see my dad as a victim, too, and it’s continuing.”

This week in 1997 Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:01:02 +0000 “Sweet Jesus, here I come. Take me home. I am going your way.”

— Kenneth Gentry, convicted of murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed April 16, 1997

Gentry, an escapee from a Georgia prison, shot hitchhiker Jimmy Don Ham in an attempt to steal and assume his identity. During his stay in Denton County Jail, he made another escape attempt, having convinced his mother to smuggle him a pistol.

A year later, Gentry tried yet again to escape, this time combining his efforts with those of another death row inmate. They were restrained and recaptured at the front gate.

This week in 1886 Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:00:14 +0000 “Hurry up, old man, or Clark will want another drink of whisky. If you don’t look out, I may fall through and sue the city for damages.”

— Allen J. Adams, convicted of murder, hanging, Massachusetts.
Executed April 16, 1886

Adams spent time as a whaler, moonshiner, and a prisoner of the Connecticut State Prison before he murdered his boss, Moses B. Dickenson, in 1875 and then disappeared for ten years. He turned up again in Tennessee, where he was convicted for forgery. To avoid the chain gang, he confessed to the murder and returned to Massachusetts for his March 16 hanging. Two days before his sentence, Adams tried to cut his own throat. His execution was postponed for a month while he healed.

The man named Clark was the sheriff.

This week in 1965 Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:00:32 +0000 “I think it’s a hell of a thing that a life has to be taken in this manner. I think capital punishment is legally and morally wrong.”

— Perry Edward Smith, convicted of murder, hanging, Kansas.
Executed April 14, 1965

The product of a broken home, Smith spent most of his life in and out of detention homes and prisons. In November 1959, he and Richard Hickcock broke into the home of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Their purpose was to rob the family, whom they had heard possessed a safe containing ten thousand dollars. The pair found no such safe and murdered of all four members of the family.

In his book “In Cold Blood,” Truman Capote records Perry’s last words as the above plus “Maybe I had something to contribute—It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize.”