Death Penalty

Last Words of Death Row Inmates Recorded in 'Gallows Poetry'


Last week, when Texas executed 54-year-old Marvin Wilson for murdering a police drug informant, he uttered the following:

“Ya’ll do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint. Take me home Jesus, take me home Lord, take me home Lord. I ain’t left yet, must be a miracle. I am a miracle. I see you, Rich. Don’t cry son, don’t cry baby. I love ya’ll. I’m ready.”

Wilson’s last words, and the last statements of others executed in Texas, are cataloged by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

In an article about the 30-year database filled with last prayers, protests, apologies and insults, the Los Angeles Times says that taken together, the statements “form kind of a gallows poetry in verses both long and short.”

In addition to Wilson, the Times quoted Charles William Bass, who was executed in 1986, saying finally, “I deserve this. Tell everyone I said goodbye.”

The Times notes that in large part, the inmates go peacefully, apologizing for their crimes and often praising God and saying goodbye to their families. An analysis of the last statements by Jon Millward on his blog shows that “love,” “family” and “thank” are the most common words uttered by those about to face execution in Texas.

“It turns out that the word prisoners in Texas most use before they are put to death for their crimes is love. Their last statements are littered with loves,” Millward writes. “Prisoners tell their families, who are often right there, behind glass, about to watch their condemned relative die, that they love them. In fact, family is the second most frequently spoken word, with thank coming in third.”

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Image courtesy of Jon Millward

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