10 Death Row Prisoners and their Last Words
Many of us would like to offer the world a profound message in our last moments, displaying who we were as people or to give a little back to the world before we depart it.
Death row prisoners have that chance, and here are 10 of the most interesting messages they chose to leave to the world and its people.
1. Patrick Bryan Knight
In 1991, Patrick Bryan Knight was convicted of a double murder, and consequently sentenced to death on 26th June 2009. Many months before his execution, he told his fellow inmates that his last words would be a joke, and gave his friends the opportunity to vote on which one he should tell.
He loved the idea so much that he even launched a website called Dead Man Laughing – which allowed the online public to contribute by offering tips for his final words. This controversial website attracted more than 1,300 posts; however, there was no winner.
Why? Because on the day of the execution, he cried and told the guards the names of several people on death row that he believed were innocent.
His final words were: “Not all of us are innocent, but those are. I said I was going to tell a joke. Death has set me free. That’s the biggest joke. I deserve this. And the other joke is that I’m not Patrick Bryan Knight and y’all can stop this execution now. Go ahead, I’m finished”.
Fingerprints, however, proved that he was in fact Patrick Bryan Knight.
2. Gary Burris
In 1980, a 24-year old Gary Burris killed an Indianapolis taxi driver by gunshot. He remained on death row until he was 40 years old, and is believed to have told an inmate how he held his victim’s head down on a freezing pavement, allowing him to beg for his life until he shot him in the head.
On 20th November 1997, Gary Burris was executed by lethal injection. His final words were “beam me up” – a Star Trek reference. We have a feeling he was more likely beamed down.
3. James D. French
James D French wanted to commit suicide whilst serving life in prison but was too scared. In order to force the state to execute him, he murdered his cellmate. He got his wish on 10th August 1966 and was executed by electric chair.
His last words were: “How’s this for a headline? ‘French Fries”.
4.Mario Benjamin Murphy
Mario Benjamin Murphy was one of six Mexican hitmen involved in the killing of a US police officer. He was just 19 years old at the time of the murder and had no previous convictions; however, controversy of his death row conviction emerged when it was revealed he was the only foreign national in the gang, which led many people to believe the sentence was racially motivated.
Mario reportedly fully-cooperated with the police, and was the only one of the six men not to be offered a plea bargain, and the only one sentenced to death. As he was a Mexican citizen, he had the option to contact the Mexican embassy for legal assistance; however, he was never informed of this right.
His last words on 17th September 1997 were “Today is a good day to die. I forgive you all. I hope God does too”.
5. Vincent Gutierrez
Vincent Gutierrez killed a 40-year-old man during a carjacking. He was sentenced to execution by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, on 28th March 2007. It was thought that Gutierrez was suffering from bipolar disorder.
His final words offered a little bit of remorse and humour: “I would like to tell everybody that I’m sorry about the situation that happened. My bad – everybody is here because of what happened. I’d like to thank everybody that’s been here through the years. The little kids overseas – they really changed me. Sister Doris, mom, brothers, sister, dad; I love you all. My brother… where’s my stunt double when you need one? My Lord is my life and saviour, nothing shall I fear”.
6. Robert Alton Harris
Robert Harris was responsible for the murder of two teenage boys. In 1992, he was the first person to be executed in the state of California in decades. His last words were a misquote from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey: “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the grim reaper”.
7. Thomas J. Grasso
Thomas J Grasso was sentenced to death by lethal injection on 20th March 1995, as he strangled an 87 year old woman to death with Christmas lights in her home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1991. He stole $8 from her purse, $4 in loose change and her TV set that he sold for $125. The same year, he murdered an 81 year old man from Staten Island for his social security cheque.
He made a lengthy last meal request: two dozen steamed mussels, a double cheeseburger from Burger King, two dozen steamed clams, a half-dozen of barbequed spare ribs, two strawberry milkshakes, one half of a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, diced strawberries and a 16 ounce can of spaghettiOs with meatballs (which had to be served at room temperature).
His final words were: “I did not get my spaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this”.
8. Barbara Elaine Wood Graham
Barbara Elaine Wood Graham was a prostitute who worked with two accomplices, Emmet Perkins and Jack Santo, to burgle a wealthy elderly lady’s home. Their first visit was fruitless, with the gang failing to find anything of value. However, they returned to her home when they learnt that she had $15,000 in a purse in her closet – and murdered her at its side.
On 3rd June 1955, Graham was executed by electric chair. However, her execution was pushed back from 10pm to 11.30pm, and so she reportedly said “Why do they torture me? I was ready to go at ten o’clock”.
Graham wore a blindfold so she didn’t have to look at the gallery’s observers, and took one last deep breath in an attempt to stay alive.
Her final words were: “Good people are always so sure they’re right”.
9. Carl Panzram
If anyone deserved to be on death row it was Carl Panzram. He was a serial killer, rapist, arsonist and burglar, and confessed his crimes to his prison guard friend, Henry Lesser. He is believed to have spoke of his acts in graphic detail, detailing his 22 murders and the sodomy of 1,000 males, before declaring “for all these things I am not in the least bit sorry”.
He was sentenced to death by hanging on 5th September 1930. He refused to appeal the verdict, and even attempted to kill human rights group members if they appealed on his behalf.
As the noose was lowered around his neck, he is believed to have spat in the executioner’s face and said: “I wish the entire human race had one neck, and I’d put my hands around it”.
When asked if he would like to say any final words, he said: “Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you’re screwing around”.
10. David Matthews
David Matthews was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Otis Earl Short, when he shot the victim when robbing his home. His execution was postponed three times, as former governor Brad Henry twice granted his defense attorneys time to investigate Matthews’ innocence, and a third stay was granted as the defense attorneys objected the plans for a substitute drug in his lethal injection.
His final words were spoken to his family members, which he said with a smile: “I think that governor’s phone is broke. He hadn’t called yet”.
To brush up on your criminal knowledge a bit further, take a look at The 10 Most Evil Serial Killers in History.