This week in 1797

“When I think how I have sinned against the great God, my heart breaks and tears run from my eyes . . . I forgive every body, and hope that God will have mercy on me. Now in the 28th year of my age, I commit my spirit in to the hands of a merciful . . . God and hope he will receive me for his great mercy’s sake. I die in peace with all mankind, and beg that all people will take warning by my awful end.”

— Stephen Smith, convicted of arson and robbery, hanging, Massachusetts.
Executed October 12, 1797

A slave born in Virginia and owned by William Allen, Smith ran away from his master and robbed houses. He claimed that his father was a religious man but his mother encouraged him to steal. In Boston he was indicted for arson and robbery, then sentenced to death.


This Week in 2011

“I hope to see you again.”

– Roy Blankenship, convicted of rape and murder, lethal injection, Georgia. Executed June 23, 2011.

After a night of drinking, Blankenship broke into the home of Sarah Bowen, a 78-year-old women who employed Blankenship for repair jobs. Blankenship raped Bowen, who died of heart failure due to the trauma. His death sentence was reversed twice before he was finally executed using a lethal injection combination containing pentobarbital, which had not been previously used by Georgia for executions.



…to the official page for Last Words of the Executed, a 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 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.

Last Words of the Executed author Robert K. Elder was on NBC’s “Last Call with Carson Daly” recently. Fast forward to 2:02 to see the exact segment.

Each day, we are posting excerpts from the book, plus outtakes, by date of execution. See below:


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