Arresting Tales

Today in death penalty history: last words of the executed

On today's date in 1966, convicted murderer James D. French was executed by electric chair in Oklahoma.  French had been serving a life sentence for murder and wanted to die, so he murdered his cellmate. When asked if he had any last words before his execution, French replied: "How about this for a headline for tomorrow's paper? French fries." While lacking the terse authority of Gary Gilmore's "Let's do it", it's still pretty memorable.  Here are some other last...

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17 Comments

J Clark said:

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Any time I read about the death penalty, it always makes proud that here in Iowa we do not have the death penalty, and everytime a legislator brings up the subject for review -- there is never enough people to support.

Jan C.

Joe the Cop said:

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jan, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I used to be a big death penalty proponent--the result of having met and talked with a few murderers over the years. Now, not so much, although there are still individuals who, frankly, just need killing.

juanyen said:

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Why don't these people ever find god, jesus or whoever before they murder somone?

Joe the Cop said:

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I'd say because, before they get convicted there's no gain in it for them. Save that sh*t for the parole board.

Jackie Tithof Steere said:

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Great post. That's so sad about that Johnny Garrett. It's always that 1 person who could be innocent that makes me unsure about the death penalty.

Joe the Cop said:

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Johnny Garrett is an example of the type of case (and there are too many of them) that have made me back away from supporting the death penalty in most cases.

irishpirate said:

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One problem with the death penalty is that prosecutors seem incapable of ever admitting when mistakes are made.

Almost very time some young white child is murdered under somewhat mysterious circumstances in the collar counties I just sit and watch the wrong man languish in prison for months or years as prosecutors keep changing their theory of the case to fit new evidence.

Happens way too frequently.

Although, as Joe said there are just some people who need to die for the common good. Some people are born evil.

Joe the Cop said:

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Yeah, between Illinois and Texas you can find plenty of examples of how NOT to conduct a murder prosecution. Remember years ago, when there was a popular national drive to speed up the appeals process in death penalty cases? If some of those "reforms" had gone through there's no doubt that several states would have executed dozens of men who were later exonerated.

irishpirate said:

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Hell the Supreme Court had a case recently where Scalia argued and they decided that factual innocence was irrelevant. It was all based on timely appeals and the evidence didn't emerge till after the deadlines had passed.

"Oh well, sorry. We know you didn't do it, but the time for appeals are over. Now maybe that law and order southern Governor will pardon you, ha."

Given the reality of the costs of the death penalty it may unfortunately be best we just abandon it. Although, there is a good argument to be made that without the scrutiny the death penalty gets many innocent men would still be in prison.

In cases of innocence you may actually be better off being sentenced to death because then the scrutiny may lead to your conviction being overturned.

One of the more egregious cases I can think of the wrong guy getting sentenced to death in Illinois happened in the far NW suburbs. An older couple was murdered in their home and the prosecutors convicted the 40ish single son. The evidence against him was basically he liked to smoke weed and had long hair. He also would have inherited the farm.

Two years later as he's sitting on death row the Feds arrest some methhead biker gang members for being meth dealers and the truth came out that they committed the murders.

Oops........

*dan bradley said:

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Haha.. I dig all the people who make puns (they'd been waiting their whole lives for just the right moment, and then..).

Joe the Cop said:

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Dan, thanks for commenting. Imagine that--sitting around your cell, racking your brain trying to come up with something clever to say on your way to the chair. I guess once you're done filing frivolous litigation there's no need to spend all your free time in the prison library, so you should be able to come up with something decent.

Ly said:

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Reading the blurb about Johnny Garrett was heartbreaking reminder of why I've always been against the death penalty. I actually chose to write a thesis for a HS civics on why I do not support it.

Joe the Cop said:

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Ly, thanks for stopping by. What conclusion did you come to?

Colster said:

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Can any country truly call it'self "civilised" if it caries out state sponsored murders? You expect this in Iran but surely not the U.S.

Chenjesu said:

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See, this is why I'm all for banishing death row inmates to an undisclosed deserted island that could sustain them. Other than a one-time transportation cost, it wouldn't cost taxpayers decades of upkeep at a prison. The anti-death penalty people couldn't complain because the inmates would still be alive, and it would be practically impossible for them to return to civilization to cause more havoc.

Joe the Cop said:

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Colster and Chenjesu, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you visit again!

Chenjesu, while your idea has a certain poetic simplicity to it, here's what's wrong with it: anti-death penalty people would most certainly have a problem with it. The same people who are most vocally against the idea of a death penalty usually are against the ideas of "super-max" type incarceration and often tend to be anti-incarceration and anti-law enforcement as well.

Chenjesu said:

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You're right, I underestimate leftists and their desire to see the inmates run the asylum. Well, it's not a perfect plan, but one must think outside the box sometimes!

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