Now Playing at Robert K. Elder on The Last Words of the Executed


What's the cultural and political significance of the dying utterances of people condemned to death?'s Nick Gillespie sat down with Robert K. Elder, author of The Last Words of the Executed, to discuss the final words people executed by the state, ranging from Sarah Goode, a victim of the Salem Witch Trials, to Gary Gilmore, the Utah murderer who became a pop phenomenon in the 1970s, to Karla Faye Tucker, a killer who famously said she had an orgasm every time she swung a pick axe into flesh during a brutal double murder.  

Approximately 8.30 minutes. Shot by Dan Hayes, Meredith Bragg and Josh Swain. Edited by Josh Swain.

Go to for downloadable versions and subscribe to's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.


NEXT: Recently at Katrina's Silver Lining - The School Choice Revolution in New Orleans

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Oh wow, OK that makes a lot of sense.


  2. My personal favorite:

    “Respawn in 5…4…3…2…1…”

  3. I didn’t say orgasm dammit!

    1. thanks, but youtube is blocked.

      1. Ah. Well, it’s Ride the Lightning by Metallica.

  4. Is State Executioner a union job?

  5. Could’ve been a great segment, utterly deflated by Gillespie’s attempt to make this into a death penalty debate (statement).

    My favorite, which you didn’t hear because of Gillespie’s redirection:

    A priest stands at the side of an electric chair resident and asks, “A last request, my son?”

    “Yes, Father. Hold my hand?”

  6. I don’t think Gillespie is a fan of the book. It’s pretty damning (no pun intended) when you call the subject matter banal.

    1. he was commenting on one specific case, and then broadening it to others of similar nature. so not really the whole subject matter of the book, but for some reason I got the same vibe(that he didn’t like it).

  7. Is Nick also against a citizens right to defend him or herself? If Nick is against the death penalty is he against a homeowner shooting an intruder? I am a libertarian and I absolutely support the death penalty. I would think Nick is for the right to self defense, it is a very libertarian position. So what is the difference between Me shooting a burglar/murderer in my home, and the State executing a burglar/murderer who killed me in my home? I do not see any distinction, how can Nick justify the former yet stand against the latter?

    1. One is self defense, the other is a premeditated killing. The only reasonable argument that could be possibly made is deterrence.
      And if one kills an intruder in a situation where the intruder does not apply a perceived risk to the person, then that is fucked up. I am not sure it is always acceptable for one to kill an intruder. But serious, everything other that the first sentence in he post is useless.

      1. One is self defense, the other culling the herd. Get off your moral high horse. Capital punishment IS a governments self defense. It is a statement, deterrent or not, that there ARE certain inhuman acts that warrant punching your ticket. (And yes, that scale can continue to evolve, with the culture.)

  8. Thank you for this tip. You will become a true expert in this area
    replica watches

  9. I’m convinced “Robert K. Elder” is Bill Kristol in disguise.

  10. Interesting, in
    isn’t it, that that M.r Gillespie choose to single out Karla Faye Tucker for some special mockery.

    Tucker did what she did due to chronic drug use and the social pressure endemic to a subculture which most people do not even know the existence of.

    By the time of her execution, she had become relatively a normal person and also a tendentious born again Christian.

    In their context, her last words were courageous, hopeful and forgiving.

    In my opinion, she died a martyr for her faith — not because she was executed, but because she was mocked for her faith by the American elite media before she died.

    The mockery continues, I suppose.

  11. No mockery, if she was sincere the government did her a favor. The more important point is, she was not executed for what she became, rather what she was when the crime was committed. She could have become Mother Theresa after the deed and it should have little, or no, bearing.

    1. The issue in my comment was not what the legal system did. The issue I made note of was how the mainstream, elite media represented her prior to her execution. The story got a great deal of coverage nationally.

      Repeat, she was mocked for her belief by the MSM.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.