Five final statements from
Last Words of the Executed
by Robert K. Elder
I have something to say, but not at this time.
grover cleveland redding, convicted of murder, Illinois. Executed June 24, 1921
Redding had claimed that he was the prince of Abyssinia and was just trying to bring the people of his race back to their homeland. During a riot that was started by Redding and his followers, two were shot to death. Redding had built up a following with his antigovernment and religiously motivated teachings.
The Firing Squad
I give you my word. I intend to die like a man, looking my executioners right in the eye.
wallace wilkerson, convicted of murder, Utah. Executed May 16, 1879
Wilkerson, age forty-five, refused the traditional blindfold and restraints during his execution for killing a man over a disputed card game. A cigar remained in his hand during his final moments. Unfortunately for Wilkerson, the bullets missed his vital organs, and he struggled for breath for fifteen to twenty-seven minutes, depending on the account, before dying. A reporter from the Ogden Junction newspaper criticized the execution, writing: “The French guillotine never fails.”
The Electric Chair
In his cell:
van roosevelt solomon, convicted of murder, Georgia. Executed February 20, 1985
A former Baptist assistant pastor, Solomon sat in the electric chair for the murder of Roger Tackett, a Georgetown University honors graduate and convenience store manager. Outside the prison, the Associated Press reported, fifty opponents and eight proponents of the death penalty stood in the rain. One held a sign reading “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Another placard read “Let me pull the switch.”
The Gas Chamber
I’m innocent! I’m innocent! I’m innocent!
robert otis pierce, convicted of murder, California. Executed April 6, 1956
With an accomplice Smith Edward Jordan, Pierce killed an Oakland cabdriver in a seven-dollar robbery turned murder. The man, Charles Rose, died after being struck several times by the butt of Pierce’s gun.
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, 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.