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Inmates' Last Words
The Execution Tapes record not only the final moments in the lives of the condemned but also their last words. Some men proclaim their innocence until the end; some seek forgiveness from the families of their victims; others make no statement at all.
The inmate's final statement is taken in two parts: Two hours before the execution, a prison official records the inmate's final statement in the holding cell outside of the death chamber. Then, once in the death chamber, after the condemned has been strapped into the electric chair and just before the hood is placed over his head, the warden offers him the opportunity to add to his final statement -- an addendum limited to two minutes. The following are a sampling of these words.
Bowden -- with an IQ of 59 -- was found guilty of the burglary, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and murder of two women for whom he was doing yard work. He was electrocuted on June 24, 1986. The first audio clip is the final statement recorded in his death cell. The second audio clip is Bowden's addendum, recorded in the death chamber, immediately before his execution.
Public outrage at Bowden's execution prompted Georgia to pass a 1988 law forbidding the execution of a retarded person. And on June 20, 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing killers who are mentally retarded violates the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment (Atkins v. Virginia). For more information on Bowden, see the Human Rights Watch report Beyond Reason: The Death Penalty and Offenders with Mental Retardation.
At over five minutes, Tucker's final statement is one of the longest on these tapes. He was convicted for the 1977 kidnapping and stabbing death of Kathleen Perry, a convenience store operator. He was electrocuted on May 29, 1987.
Van Roosevelt Solomon was convicted of the 1979 murder of Roger Dennis Tackett, a gas station manager, and was electrocuted on February 20, 1985.
Richard Tucker, Jr. was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Edna Sandefur, a retired nurse. He was electrocuted on May 29, 1987.
Next Page | Complete audio of all execution tapes »
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