This week in 1924

“I will see my wife—she will meet me with outstretched arms. She knows I never harmed her but I was always kind and good, not only to her but to everyone…They had the one idea that I was guilty. I am not. In a few minutes I will be ushered into eternity where all secrets are known. Over there they will judge me and they will say I am innocent.”

After the blindfold was placed on his head:
“Say good-bye to my brother and daughter.”

— Omer R. Woods, convicted of murder, firing squad, Utah.
Executed January 18, 1924

To the last moment, Woods staunchly denied his guilt in the killing of his sickly wife. He allegedly killed her in her bed and then attempted to set fire to the body to collect insurance. Woods maintained that robbers had killed her and even named one of them.


This week in 1942

In the electric chair:
“I got it coming.”

— Bernard Sawicki, convicted of murder, electric chair, Illinois.
Executed January 17, 1942

Sawicki shot a seventy-two-year-old farmer who he claimed had him put in a St. Charles juvenile correctional facility. He then went on a robbery and murder spree which claimed three more victims, including a policeman, Charles Speaker.


This week in 1977

“Let’s do it!”

— Gary Gilmore, convicted of murder, firing squad, Utah.
Executed January 17, 1977

With a hood over his head and a paper target attached to his chest, Gilmore became the first man executed in nearly ten years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the death penalty. Gilmore confessed to shooting motel clerk Bennie Bushnell, age twenty-five, twice in the head while he lay on the floor during a robbery. Gilmore’s troubled life was chronicled by Norman Mailer in his book “Executioner’s Song,” and he was portrayed by actor Tommy Lee Jones in the TV adaptation of the book.


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