Last Words of the Executed
by Robert K. Elder (editor)
To me the last thoughts and comments of people who know they are about to die is a profoundly interesting topic. What would I say? What would I consider so important that I would want to spend my last moments on earth discussing it? How would I want to be remembered?
The reality of this book is significantly more mundane than I anticipated. Around 3/4 of the hundreds of entries are Christian platitudes, professions of innocence (even in the face of unshakeable evidence), and apologies to families of victims. That said, there are also many insightful and even moving moments that give you plenty of pause before moving on to the next condemned. They range from philosophical to political to sarcastic and witty. Three of the most thought-provoking:
I am against this horrible form of murder by the state, but I would rather be standing here for the crime that, so help me God, I never remember committing, than to be sitting down there eagerly waiting to see a man die. Let the state of Illinois take shame upon itself. Goodbye.” Edward Brislane, 2/11/1921
“I have something to say, but not at this time.” Grover Cleveland Redding, 6/24/1921
“You all brought me here to be executed, not to make a speech. That’s it.” Charles Livingston, 11/21/1997