Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Biography, History, Law

Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed on WGN

Robert K. Elder author of Last Words of the Executed discussed his book earlier this morning on WGN’s noontime news program. Check out the archived video below.

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The product of seven years of extensive research by journalist Robert K. Elder, Last Words of the Executed presents an oral history of American capital punishment, as heard from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney. The book explores the cultural value of these final statements and asks what we can learn from them. We hear from both the famous—such as Nathan Hale, Joe Hill, Ted Bundy, and John Brown—and the forgotten, and their words give us unprecedented glimpses into their lives, their crimes, and the world they inhabited. Organized by era and method of execution, these final statements range from heartfelt to horrific. Some are calls for peace or cries against injustice; others are accepting, confessional, or consoling; still others are venomous, rage-fueled diatribes. Even the chills evoked by some of these last words are brought on in part by the shared humanity we can’t ignore, their reminder that we all come to the same end, regardless of how we arrive there.
Read excerpts from the book.