Books for the News

Ronnie Lee Gardner had no last words, but others who faced the firing squad did

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“No, I do not.”
Those were the last words of Ronnie Lee Gardner, the Utah man who was executed by firing squad at 12:20 a.m. today, in response to the question, “Do you have any last words?”
Gardner may not have had anything to say before being put to death, but for many, these final statements are a last opportunity to declare innocence, cheer for a favorite sports team, or beg forgiveness. Last Words of the Executed collects the final utterances of men and women who paid the ultimate price for their crimes. An oral history of American capital punishment, the book is a riveting, moving testament from the darkest corners of society.
Here is a selection of the last words of those executed by firing squad:

“I give you my word. I intend to die like a man, looking my executioners right in the eye. [After the initial round of bullets failed to kill him] Oh my God! oh my God! They have missed.”—Wallace Wilkerson. Executed May 16, 1879, Utah. He died from his wounds shortly thereafter.
“So long, fellows.”—Frank Rose. Executed April 22, 1904, Utah.
“When I was a kid raising hell everyone told me I’d end up on the gallows, so I thought I’d fool them. Also, there’s an old saying I like: ‘Live by the sword and die by the sword.'”—John Deering. Executed October 31, 1938, Utah.
“It’s getting light. What’s holding those fellows up?”—Robert Walter Avery. Executed February 5, 1943, Utah.
“I’m ready to go. No one will miss me. My life has been worthless.”—Ray Gardner. Executed September 29, 1951, Utah.
“Why yes, a bulletproof vest!”—James Rodgers, in response to whether he had any last requests. Executed March 30, 1960, Utah.

Read more last words of the executed or visit the book’s website.