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Giving voice to the dead: Last statements of the condemned

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The discourse surrounding the death penalty includes many diverse voices. However, the voices of the individuals at the center of this ultimate punishment - the condemned themselves - are often silenced. Moreover, systematic research on these individuals is severely lacking in the scholarly literature on the death penalty. This article seeks to 'give voice' to these individuals by exploring their last statements. Through an exploratory examination of the last statements of the condemned, the perspectives and sentiments of these individuals are brought to light. Through the use of content analysis, the major themes found among the last statements are identified and a detailed typology is constructed. What we find is that the most dominant themes among the condemned center around transformation and positive messages of connection to others. We find humanity.

Keywords: condemned prisoners; death penalty; executions; humanity; last statements; transformation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor of Justice Studies, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia 2: Professor of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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