What Death Row Inmates Say Before They Die

Texas keeps an online database of last words

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 30, 2013 1:51 PM CDT

(Newser) – Texas executes more inmates than any other state, but its gone are not forgotten. The state memorializes its executed with a morbidly fascinating online database containing each inmate's last statement, the New York Times reports. Some praise a deity, some tell their family they love them one last time, some apologize for their crimes ... some cheer for their favorite sports team. "Go Cowboys!" said Jesse Hernandez, 28, who was executed last year. For some critics of the death penalty, the database is simply perverse. "The death penalty is a process, not an act, and posting the final words of a condemned person after a process which has usually lasted a decade or more is simply a disservice," says a human rights expert from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "How is one to assess the phrase of 'Go Cowboys!' from a man on a gurney?"

In the last 30 years, Texas has executed more people than Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia combined. But although the final statements may help humanize the condemned for some observers, Jim Willett, a retired warden who personally witnessed 89 statements in his three years at the Walls Unit prison in Huntsville, says none of them shook his support for the death penalty. "You can hear it in their voices sometimes and in their delivery that they are sincerely hurting for the pain that they put their own family through," he says. (Texas on Wednesday performed its 500th execution since 1982; read what Kimberly McCarthy's last words were.)

The gurney used to restrain condemned prisoners during the lethal injection process is shown in the Texas death house in Huntsville, Texas.
The gurney used to restrain condemned prisoners during the lethal injection process is shown in the Texas death house in Huntsville, Texas.   (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
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