Death Row Inmates’ Last Words, the Database

July 2, 2013 | Marie Calloway

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice website keeps records of the Last Statements from all the people executed in its State — all 500 of them. According to The New York Times, it contains “the rantings, apologies, prayers, claims of innocence and confessions of hundreds of men and women in the minutes before their deaths.”

They range from regretful to defiant, professing innocence, guilt, apologies and affections.

“Well, first I want to say. They may execute me but they can’t punish me because they can’t execute an innocent man. I am not mad. Jack Herrington, I am not mad. You were given a job to do but that’s neither here nor there. I am not mad. I am disappointed by the courts. I feel like I was upset and let down by them. But that’s O.K. I just played the hand that life dealt me. Look at my life and learn from it. I am very remorseful about what I did. I apologize. To my kids, Daddy loves you. Irene Wilcox, Thank you. It’s been a long journey. Thank you for being there. Tell Jack hello. I know I am wrong but I am asking ya’ll to forgive me.” – Willie Pondexter

“Yes I do, I know this no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave you. I am so so sorry. My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I have caused. I hope that someday you can find peace. I am not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I don’t if I am worth. I realize what I’ve done to you and the pain I’ve given. Please Lord forgive me. I have done some horrible things. I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people. I am sorry. So so sorry. To the Sanchez family who showed me love. To the Hawkings’ family, I am sorry. I know I have affected them for so long. Please forgive me. Irene, I want to thank you and thank your husband Jack. I’ll be waiting for you. I am so sorry. To these families I ask forgiveness. Father God I ask you too for forgiveness. I ask you for forgiveness Lord. I am ready to go Lord. Thank you. I am ready to go. My Jesus my Savior there is none like you. All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord let us sing.” – Michael Rodriguez

“First of all I would like to tell my Uncle Kyle that I am sorry. I have been sorry for the last 10 years for what I did. I wish you could accept my apology. I know you can’t accept my apology, I know you can’t give your forgiveness; it’s okay and I understand. I have done what I could to heal the rest of the family. I wish that someday you could come to terms and understand. I know I was wrong; I accept responsibility as a man. I take this penalty as a man. This doesn’t solve anything, ’cause it hurts others that love me. I am sorry. I love you Kjersti. I love you too Roland. I love you too Uncle Kyle; I am still your nephew, no matter what you believe.” – Carlton Akee Turner

“I just want everyone to know that the prosecutor and Bill Scott are sorry sons of bitches. [To his family he added that he loved them all.]” – Edward Ellis

“I deserve this. Tell everyone I said goodbye.” – Charles William Bass

The Times article probes into the possible ethical qualms of the database.  They interview Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who says, “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…How is one to assess the phrase of ‘Go Cowboys!’ from a man on a gurney?”

But the article seems to posit a possibility that the database might do good in that it gives executed inmates a wider audience to speak to. Inmates James Lee Beathard last words included, “Couple of matters that I want to talk about,” he said, “since this is one of the few times people will listen to what I have to say.”