Famous Last Words On Death Row
Death Row is notorious for housing some of the most terrifying people. Let’s take a look at some of the strangest last words ever said on death row.Weird
Death Row is notorious for housing some of the most terrifying people on the planet. Having committed some of the worst crimes possible, these people are subject to prison waits spanning decades before being put to death. Surprisingly, their final words ranged from repenting, to downright sinister and bizarre. Let's explore some of the strangest last words ever said on death row.
There’s a time and a place for a good dad joke. Death row, at any point, usually isn’t one of them. But that didn’t stop James French, who was executed in August 1966 in Oklahoma, after being found guilty of murder. His last words, to the reporters and press who turned up in the days prior to his execution, were:
“If I were covering my execution, do you know what I'd say in the newspaper headline?"
"French Fries. See ya."
Unsurprisingly, not one of the press outlets ran that as their headline.
Robert Charles Towery
Robert Charles Towery killed philanthropist Robert Jones in 1991 during a robbery that went sideways. He spent two decades on death row after being convicted of murder. That’s a lot of time to contemplate your actions and really think about what you want your last words to be.
On the day, with Jones’ family onlooking, he apologized, repented, and then through tears concluded with the phrase: “I love my family. Potato Potato Potato.”
At the time, this made absolutely no sense. Apparently, it was an inside joke he had with his nephew that a Harley Davidson sounded like the word potato being repeated over and over.
Thomas J. Grasso
If you have one last meal, you don’t skim over the details. The day before Thomas J Grasso’s execution in 1995, he requested two dozen steamed mussels, two dozen steamed clams, a double cheeseburger from Burger King, a half-dozen barbecued spare ribs, two strawberry milkshakes, one-half of a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, diced strawberries, and a can of SpaghettiOs with meatballs.
Enough to satisfy even the biggest of men. Except it didn’t. On the day of his execution, he issued a statement to the press that read:
“I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.”
The optimist in me hopes this was a kind of deterrent for anyone thinking of committing a capital crime. Not an attempt at a bad yelp review.
Remember how I mentioned that dad jokes had a time and a place? Why does that time and place keep coming back to death row? Surely you’d want to say something poignant, you’d want to repent, or tell the people you love. But for some, dad jokes it is.
George Appel was executed in August 1928 for the murder of a police officer. His last words before he was sentenced to death by an electric chair were reported as: “Gentlemen, you are about to see a baked appel.”
It’s unbelievable. Because it’s not true! His last words were erroneously reported by the press, when he really spent his final breath professing his innocence. Seemed like it was too good an opportunity for the journalists to pass up. There’s a lesson here: don’t commit crimes if you don’t want to end up as a cosmic joke.
One of the weirder and more famous quotes here comes from a story that was adapted into a major motion picture. Aileen Wuornos was charged with the murder of 7 men, which came with a heavy criminal penalty of 6 death sentences. In 2002 she was only able to fulfill one of those sentences.
But before she did, she said:“I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the Rock and I’ll be back like Independence Day with Jesus, June 6, like the movie, big mothership and all. I’ll be back.”
There is a lot to unpack here. For a start, Independence Day is July 4th, not June 6th. If she’s talking about the film, that was released on August 9th. The Rock wasn’t in that film. And Jesus most definitely wasn’t. But Jeff Goldblum was. Close enough!
Grover Cleveland Redding
If you knew you were going to die, would you prepare a whole speech, or would you simply say nothing? Surely now would be the best time to set the record straight, or just get your final thoughts off your chest. Unless you’re Grover Cleveland Redding.
After starting a riot where several people were hurt and killed, he was convicted of murder and was sentenced to be hung until dead. His final words in June 1921 were recorded as:
“I have something to say, but not at this time”
Keeping up appearances in 18th-century England was a hard job. Especially for Mary Blandy, who so desperately wanted to marry an already-married man. Scandalous! To overcome this, she supposedly poured a love potion into her disapproving father's food to try and get his consent.
Sadly, it wasn’t a love potion. It was actually arsenic. Her father died, and she was convicted of patricide. As she ascended the ladder to the noose, she uttered the eternal phrase:
“For the sake of decency gentlemen, don’t hang me high!”
Determined to keep up appearances until the very end! God forbid she flash an ankle!
There are plenty of ways to tell your family you love them. Sometimes it’s in the little things, like making breakfast in the morning or cleaning the house. But if you’re Vincent Gutierrez, affection looks like standing on death row and dedicating your final words to your brother by saying:
“My brother… where’s my stunt double when you need one?”
Convicted of carjacking and murder, Vincent was executed in 2007, but not before implicating that he’d wish his brother was taking the lethal injection instead. A simple ‘I love you brother’ would have done the trick!
1880’s America wasn’t exactly fond of labor unions. Socialism was very much the enemy, and riots in North America became a surging problem. But this didn’t stop union activist George Engel who helped found the Socialist Labor Party of North America, and who was later convicted for his part in a riot that saw the deaths of multiple police officers.
The killings were laid at his door, and he was sentenced to death by hanging. As unfair as the sentence seemed, his final words were:
“Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life!”
I can almost see the look on his wife’s face. He was a dead man either way at that point!
Patrick Bryan Knight
Again, again, with the terrible jokes. These are literally your last moments on Earth, not your tight-5 for the comedy store. Let’s take a look at Patrick Bryan Knight. In 1991 this laborer from Texas abducted and killed his neighbors.
He was given the death penalty, but Knight was one of those guys who really thought through what they were going to say. So much so that he went onto internet forums and sent letters asking for jokes he could use in his final words. He got almost 1300 suggestions!
And what did he go with: “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 am not Patrick Bryan Knight and y’all can’t stop this execution now.”
1300 suggestions, and he went with his own terrible joke. Even the Houston Chronicle ran the headline “joke not funny as condemned killer executed in near tears”. Talk about dying on stage!
Clarence Ray Allen
Clarence Ray Allen was a dangerous man. While serving a life sentence for one murder, he was convicted of organizing the deaths of three more people from behind bars. In his final years, he re-connected with his Native American heritage, and his last words which the warden read out following his execution by lethal injection were:
“My last words will be, Hokahey, it's a good day to die!”
Roughly translated, ‘Hokahey’ is an exclamation like “let’s do it!”, but there have been misconceptions in the past that it meant ‘it’s a good day to die.’ Here, it looks like Allen accidentally misunderstood his own dying speech. Oops.
Robert Charles Comer
Sports fans often boast that their teams are their lives. It’s enough to start fights and riots. But would your final words go as a shoutout to your favorite team? They would if you were Robert Charles Comer. Convicted of multiple capital crimes such as murder, Comer was given the death penalty in 1988.
In 2007, prior to being administered the lethal injection, he was asked for a final statement. He said, quite simply: “Go Raiders”.
Probably worth noting that Comer was an Arizona citizen. However, the Oakland Raiders, now known as the Las Vegas Raiders, were never Arizona’s home team. It’s an interesting way to spend your last breath!
Practicing witchcraft today is more associated with burning sage around your house and having a real crystal fetish. But back in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, practicing witchcraft was a notion that carried the death penalty.
One of its first victims, Sarah Good, had been accused of witchcraft and was put to death by hanging, but not before her final words were directed towards the trial judge, Reverend Nicholas Noyes.
They were recorded as: “I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink”
25 years later, Noyes died from choking on his own blood. Maybe witchcraft is real.
Back in 1987, the electric chair was still a common electrocution method. Jimmy Glass petitioned against the state of Louisiana that the chair was a ‘cruel and usual punishment’, but a court ruling at the time found the method was constitutional.
They might have considered it a little more if Glass wasn’t an inmate on death row convicted of a heinous capital crime. On the day of his execution, obviously by electric chair, Glass’s final words were: “I’d rather be fishing.” Let’s hope for Jimmy’s sake there is plenty of fish in hell.
One thing that can be said about everyone’s last words so far is that they’re all original. Time to break that theme. Timothy McVeigh was a domestic terrorist who committed the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. Until 9/11 it was the worst act of terrorism the nation of America had ever seen.
He was given the penalty of death by lethal injection. And his final statement? A poem by William Earnest Henley that concludes with the lines: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Somewhat unsurprising that a criminal following the ideologies of someone else wouldn’t even be able to come up with an original final statement.
Also, the irony of declaring “you’re the master of your fate” while being literally put to death by someone else, it actually verges into ‘completely idiotic’ territory. The clown should have chosen something more his speed, like Dr. Seuss!
Tom “Blackjack” Ketchum
Now here’s one that has been famously misreported. Tom “BlackJack” Ketchum was part of a train robbery that went south in 1901. It resulted in the death of his brother, and he lost an arm!
When eventually hanged for his crimes, it’s been perpetuated that his final words were: “I'll be in hell before you start breakfast, boys. Let her rip!” But that doesn’t seem to be true!
The papers from the time report that he said something closer along the lines of: “Hurry up the hanging so I can get to hell in time for dinner” And in the morning, he apparently also said to his lawyer: “Tell Harrington I’ll meet him in hell for breakfast.” Big fan of the food in hell was old Blackjack. He really couldn’t wait to get down there!
Live long and prosper, except if you’re a murderer. Then the rules change. Gary Burris was arrested and convicted for the gruesome murder of a cab driver in Indianapolis, in 1980. He was sentenced to death in 1981. He filed many appeals under habeas corpus, all of which were denied, and he was given the lethal injection in 1997, but just before he said: “Beam me up”.
He must have been having problems with his communicator, because the execution was successful and there were no UFO sightings reported around the facility on that day.
If we all knew when we were going to die, would we treat it like a birthday? It’s a pretty big event, I guess you’d want to make a speech, or maybe have one ready. Unless you just want to get the point, like Charlie Livingstone.
Convicted of a particularly nasty robbery turned murder in 1983; Livingstone was sentenced to death by lethal injection which was carried out in November 1997. His final words:
“You all brought me here to be executed, not to make a speech. That’s it.” It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Aaron Mitchell was the last person to be executed by means of a gas chamber in 1967. He had been found guilty of the murder of a police officer in 1963, and ended up as the only person to be put to death in the state of California during the term of Governor Ronald Regan!
As he was strapped down in the gas chamber, his last words were apparently: “I am Jesus Christ – look what they have done to me!” However, if he was Jesus Christ, surely he’d have nothing to worry about. He’d just pop back up in three days’ time.
The idea of ‘Rock and Roll till I Die’ is celebrated the world over. There are so many songs titled after it, but some people don’t mean it literally. Or at least not to the degree that Douglas Roberts meant it.
Convicted of murder and sentenced to death by lethal injection in 1997, Roberts waited seven years before his execution in 2005. His final words were:
“I've been hanging around this popsicle stand way too long. Before I leave, I want to tell you all. When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head, and rock and roll me when I'm dead.”
Let’s take a step back. Popsicle stand? The phrase he’s looking for is ‘let’s blow this popsicle stand’ from the film The Blues Brothers. As for the rest of it, why would you put the speakers at the feet? And if you have speakers, why do you also need headphones? There are so many questions.
Billie Wayne Coble
Can you put a price on the final words you’ll ever get to say? Billie Wayne Coble seems to think so. Coble was a Texas death row inmate convicted of murdering his estranged wife’s parents and brother.
He was executed in March 2019, but before he went, he made sure to put a price tag on his final statement: “I love you. That’ll be 5 dollars.” I’d be interested to know if they even take dollars in the afterlife. I always imagined it’d be euros.
There are quite a few things in life you don’t want to be late for: your flight, an important occasion, or maybe that big meeting. But something I guess you certainly wouldn’t mind pushing back is your own execution.
Rodney Berget attempted to escape from prison in 2011 and killed an officer in the process. He was then given the death penalty, and on his arrival to his execution in 2018, his final statement began with: "Sorry for the delay, I got caught in traffic."
He hadn’t left the facility all day. More likely he was referring to the 6-year court battle arguing his mental defense case, resulting in a 6-hour delay on the day. Which he clearly lost.
He was also recorded to have said: “Is it supposed to feel like that?” before falling asleep and snoring. Heavily.
If you were amazed at these weird last words of death row prisoners, you might want to read this article about the strangest last meal requests on death row. Thanks for reading!