Nearly everybody has an opinion on capital punishment, otherwise known as the death penalty. It’s a highly controversial topic. Some view it as rightful lawfulness, while others view it as a lapse of justice, a violation of human rights.
It’s not only a controversy here in the United States but also abroad. 102 countries have completely abolished the practice and 32 have been abolitionist from the start. Resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly have been called to abolish capital punishment worldwide.
Here in America, the majority of America supports the death penalty. A Gallup poll from 2010 confirmed that 64% of Americans endorse capital punishment for a criminal found guilty of murder.
Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of criminals have been executed by governments all over the world since its inception. And over the years, many of these criminals have indicated no guilt for their crimes even up to their deaths, offering up shocking, perhaps even horrifying, final statements before they were executed. They proved that they were criminals through and through.
So, turn on the lights and try and do your best not to get too appalled as you read this list of 15 chilling remarks criminals made before they were executed. Warning: Read at your own discretion.
15 Robert Drew—“Remember, the death penalty is murder.”
Robert Nelson Drew was born on April 8, 1959 in Vermont. He worked as a carpenter with no prison record prior to the murder he committed. Drew was out hitchhiking in February of 1983 when he was picked up by Jeffrey Mays, a 17-year-old runaway from Birmingham, Alabama, in exchange for gas money. He and another hitchhiker Mays picked up got into an argument with Mays that ended with Drew stabbing the teenager to death and him and his other companion leaving Mays in a ditch. Drew and the hitchhiker, 37-year-old Ernest Purleauski, were charged with murder. Drew was executed by lethal injection on August 2, 1994. His last words,“Remember, the death penalty is murder," seemed to suggest he thought the people executing him were no better than him and that they were criminals just like him.
14 James Allen Red Dog—"I'm going home, babe."
James Allen Red Dog was born in 1954 in Poplar, Montana. Red Dog was a mixed Sioux and Assiniboine who was raised on a Native American reservation. Blaming his poverty-stricken reservation for his lot in life, Red Dog turned to a life of crime so he could make a living for himself. In 1973 he staged an armed robbery with a partner that resulted in a prison sentence for Red Dog. In 1991, years after he was released from prison, Red Dog raped and sodomized a 52-year-old woman and slit the throat of her male roommate. While on trial for his crimes, Red Dog asked to be executed, despite his legal team who wanted to plead that he was mentally incompetent. Before his execution by lethal injection, he received his last rites from a tribal medicinal man from his reservation, then told his wife, “I’m going home, babe.”
13 James French— “How’s this for a headline? ‘French Fries.’”
James French was born circa 1936. While he finished high school, and completed two years of college, he was noted to have shown signs of insanity as early as 16. While hitchhiking across Texas in 1958, French kidnapped the motorist who offered him a lift and murdered him. French was charged with a life sentence in prison. He wanted to die, but was supposedly too afraid to commit suicide, so he murdered his cellmate to coerce the state into executing him. He got his wish when he was sentenced to be executed by the electric chair on August 10, 1966. Before he was strapped in he talked to members of the press, saying, “How’s this for a headline? ‘French Fries’”, showing no fear for what was to come and appearing composed enough to crack jokes before his impending death. Unfortunately for him, his suggested headline didn’t appear in the newspapers the following day.
12 Barbara Graham—"Good people are always so sure they're right."
Barbara Elaine Graham was born on June 26, 1983, in Oakland, California. Her criminal behavior started during her teen years when she was arrested for vagrancy and sent off to a reform school. Graham tried to turn over a new leaf but got involved in drugs and gambling, and forged friendships with ex-convicts. She and some partners of her broke into the home of a 64-year-old widow, who supposedly possessed a substantial amount of money somewhere in her home, and suffocated the woman with a pillow. One of Graham’s partners testified against her in court, and even though Graham pleaded innocence and made multiple appeals, she still ended up on death row. About to be executed in a gas chamber, Graham requested that she be blindfolded so she wouldn’t be able to see her observers before she said, “Good people are always so sure they’re right." This may have caused the observers to have doubts about the truth regarding Graham.
11 John Spenkelink—“Capital punishment: them without the capital get the punishment.”
John Arthur Spenkelink was born on March 29, 1949 in Le Mars, Iowa. He was a convicted felon who escaped from a correctional camp in California. In 1973, he shot and killed a fellow minor criminal; he argued that it was in self-defense, but his testimony was proved false in court. He was charged with first-degree murder in 1976 and sentenced to death. Spenkelink’s sentence sparked a national debate over whether or not the crime he committed was deserving of the death penalty. One of the arguments was that capital punishment discriminated against the poor and unprivileged, which may have been the philosophy behind Spenkelink’s last words before he was executed in the electric chair, “Capital punishment: them without the capital get the punishment.”
10 John Avalos Alba—“Okay Warden, let’s do it. I love y’all. I can taste it already. I am starting to go.”
John Avalos Alba was born June 26, 1955, in Bastrop, Texas. He worked as a carpenter with a history of domestic violence against his estranged wife, who he murdered in August 1991. Shortly after Alba was released from jail on a child molestation charge, he forced his way into the apartment his estranged wife was staying in with a friend and shot her to death. Alba shot his wife’s friend, but she survived and testified against Alba in court. Alba was sentenced to be executed by lethal injection. Before he was injected with the deadly drugs, Alba told the warden, “Okay Warden, let’s do it.” As the drugs began working, Alba declared he could taste them before saying, “I am starting to go.” Alba’s last words seemed to show that he was completely calm even while he was dying.
9 James Jackson—“See you all on the other side. Warden, murder me… I’m ready to roll. Time to get this party started.”
James Lewis Jackson was born on June 13, 1959 in Harris County, Texas. He became the stepfather to two teenage girls in 1995 when he married Sharon Jackson, but a strain was placed on their marriage within a couple of years due to his drug addiction and controlling behavior. On April 9, 1997, one of Sharon’s co-workers and her mother entered the Jacksons’ residence to discover Sharon and her two stepdaughters strangled to death. Jackson was interrogated by police and admitted to the killings. In 2007, Jackson was sentenced to lethal injection. Before he was executed, he expressed love for his deceased family, then blatantly told the warden to “murder him” so they could “get this party started.” The fact that someone would treat their own execution in such a relaxed manner would be enough to horrify anyone.
8 Peter Kurten—“Tell me. After my head has been chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be a pleasure to end all pleasures.”
Peter Kurten was born on May 26, 1883, in Mülheim am Rhein, Germany. Between February 1929 and November 1929, he carried out a string of murders and sexual assaults against nine women and attempted 20 more in the city of Dusseldorf. He was dubbed the “Vampire of Dusseldorf” because he was reported to have drunk the blood of a swan he killed and the blood of at least one of his victims. During his trial, he was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to death. Shortly before his execution at the guillotine, he asked the doctor present if he would be able to hear the sound of his blood gushing from his neck after his head got chopped off. When the doctor replied that his ears and brain would probably still function for several more seconds, Kurten replied, “That would be a pleasure to end all pleasures.” Kurten’s final words undoubtedly proved he was a sick and twisted individual.
7 Peter Manuel—“Turn up the radio and I’ll go quietly."
Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel was born on March 13, 1927, in New York City. He didn't stay in New York for long, as his Scottish family moved back to Scotland when he was five years old. By the age of 10 he was known as a petty thief and by 16 he was committing sexual assaults. The biggest crimes he committed were the murders of seven people in Lanarkshire and northern Scotland over a two-year period between 1956-1958. Prior to his capture, the press dubbed the unidentified killer as the “Beast of Birkenshire.” Manuel conducted his own defense without a legal team while on trial, but his insanity plea failed to sway the judge, and he was given the death penalty for his crimes. During the final days leading up to his execution, he listened to the radio in silence. He was hanged at Barlinnie Prison on July 11, 1958. His last words? “Turn up the radio and I’ll go quietly.”
6 Erskine Childers—"Take a step forward, lads. It will be easier that way."
Robert Erskine Childers was born on June 25, 1870 in Mayfair, London, England. Possibly the least dangerous criminal on the list, Childers was an author, a solider, and an Irish nationalist. In 1922 during the midst of the Irish Civil War, Childers was arrested in his home by the Free State forces for possessing an illegal firearm, a violation of the Emergency Powers Resolution. He was tried in military court, found guilty, and condemned to death. Childers made an appeal, but his execution was carried out while he was awaiting a decision. Shortly before he was executed by firing squad, Childers shook hands with each member of the squad, apparently bearing no ill feelings. To add to that, he jokingly told the firing squad, "Take a step forward, lads. It will be easier that way,” revealing to everyone he was not afraid of dying.
5 Jimmy Glass—“I’d rather be fishing.”
Jimmy L. Glass, born circa 1962, was another criminal who had a criminal record before he perpetrated a capital crime. In December of 1982, Glass escaped from a prison in Webster Parish, Louisiana with fellow inmate Jimmy Wingo. They broke into the home of a family living in Dixie Inn, Louisiana, killing the parents and burglarizing the house. Both men were soon arrested and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Making headlines for his crimes, Glass made more headlines when he appeared as petitioner in the Supreme Court where he argued that death by electric chair was “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is forbidden by the 8th and 14th amendments. However, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that death by electric chair as a sanctioned method of execution was in fact constitutional. Glass’ last words before he was executed on June 12, 1987 were: “I’d rather be fishing.”
4 Richard Zeitvogel—“Keep the faith and rock on.”
Richard Steven Zeitvogel was born on May 11, 1956 in Missouri. At the age of 18 he was already in jail on burglary and r*pe charges. Seven years later, Zeitvogel and Frank Guinan, a friend and fellow inmate, were convicted in the fatal stabbing of another inmate. A few years later, in 1984, Zeitvogel strangled his cellmate to death, then called a correctional officer to his cell to declare his crime. He told authorities that he killed his fellow inmate because he wanted to receive a death sentence so he could room with Guinan, who was suspected to be his lover, on death row. While Zeitvogel tried to appeal his death sentence, his attempts went unsuccessful. Guinan was executed in 1993, and Zeitvogel followed suit by lethal injection three years later. His final words, “Keep the faith and rock on,” felt more suited for something else than before his own execution.
3 Robert Alton Harris—"You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper."
Robert Alton Harris was born January 15, 1953 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He grew up in an abusive home, receiving frequent beatings from his parents during his childhood. His father was eventually imprisoned after molesting his daughters, and his mother smoke and drank herself to an early death. Starting from the age of 10, Harris had run-ins with the law; in 1975 he was convicted of manslaughter, but got off on parole in 1978. Later that year Harris and his brother kidnapped two 16-year-old boys from a fast food restaurant, forced them to drive to an isolated area, and then shot them dead. They then used the teenagers’ car as a getaway vehicle when they robbed a bank in San Diego. Less than an hour after the robbery occurred, Harris was arrested and subsequently charged with murder, auto theft and kidnapping, among other things. He was sentenced to death in 1979. Following multiple failed appeals, Harris was executed by gas chamber in 1992. His last words were taken from the Keanu Reeves’ film Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, revealing the deep truth that everyone must face death, regardless of how it happens.
2 Timothy McVeigh—“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
Timothy McVeigh was born on April 23, 1968 in Lockport, New York. He was a target of bullies during his schooling years, but he found solace in computers and spent his high school days hacking into government computer systems. He was introduced to firearms by his grandfather, and throughout his tenure in the military during the Gulf War, he conducted extensive research into firearms, explosives, and sniper tactics. After McVeigh left the army, he became increasingly bitter against the government, especially in the aftermath of the Waco Siege and Ruby Ridge incident. Seeking revenge against the government for its handling of those two events, McVeight orchestrated the infamous Oklahoma City Bombing, killing 168 people and injuring 600. He was convicted of eleven different federal crimes and sentenced to death. Four years later, in 2001, McVeigh was executed by lethal injection. His final words were taken from a poem written by William Ernest Henley named “Invictus”, and he was described as having a totally blank and emotionless stare in the moments before his execution.
1 Richard Cobb—“Wow. This is great. Thank you, warden…”
Richard Aaron Cobb was born on April 2, 1984, in Smith County, Texas. He was a high school dropout who committed a capital crime at the age of 18. He and a accomplice, Beunka Adams, robbed a convenience store and abducted three victims, two female employees and a man who helped around the store. Cobb and Harris stole one of the employees’ cars and drove the victims to a pasture where they r*ped and savagely beat the two female employees and fatally shot the male helper. Cobb and Adams believed all three victims to be dead when they left the scene. The women however survived the ordeal and escaped to safety, where they identified their attackers. Cobb and Adams were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Cobb was executed by lethal injection on April 23, 1984. When asked if he had any last words, Cobb replied, “"Life is death, death is life… Life is too short to harbor feelings of hatred and anger.” When Cobb felt the drugs taking effect, he said, “Wow! That is great. That is awesome! Thank you, warden.” Even up to his death, Cobb was noted as expressing no sign of remorse or regret for his actions.
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