Death row inmates' last words

In 1790, Thomas Bird became the first person to be federally executed under the United States Constitution. He was hanged on June 25 for piracy and killing the captain of a slave ship. He used his last words to proclaim he was innocent of murder.

From Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh, some of the most notorious criminals in history have been put to death.

DEATH ROW INMATES' LAST WORDS

The issue is still one of the most debated in politics, with many Americans opposed to the penalty. Overall, death sentences are down more than 80 percent from the 1990s. Fewer jurisdictions are seeking capital punishment and juries are more willing to sentence defendants to life terms with no chance of parole.

Here is a list of some of the country's most notorious killers' last words. 

Corey Johnson

Corey Johnson

NAME: COREY JOHNSON

CRIME: Johnson was convicted of killing seven people related to his drug trafficking in Virginia in 1992.

EXECUTION DATE: 1-14-21, lethal injection

LAST STATEMENT: Johnson wrote in part: "I want to say that I’m sorry for my crimes. I wanted to say that to the families that were victimized." He said he would have said he was sorry before but he "didn’t know how."

"To my family I have always loved you, and your love has made me real. On the streets, I was looking for shortcuts, I had some good role models, I was side tracking, I was blind and stupid."

"I am not the same man that I was."

His federal execution came after a protracted legal battle over his contraction of the coronavirus last month.

Abel Revill Ochoa

Abel Revill Ochoa

NAME: ABEL REVILL OCHOA, 47

CRIME: Fatally shooting his wife, father-in-law, sister-in-law, 7-year-old daughter and 9-month-old daughter. 

EXECUTION DATE: 2-6-20, lethal injection

LAST WORDS:  "I would like to thank God, my dad, my Lord Jesus savior for saving me and changing my life. I want to apologize to my in-laws for causing all this emotional pain. I love y’all and consider y’all my sister I never had. I want to thank you for forgiving me."

Ochoa was arrested minutes after the murders. He gave a written confession and said he killed his family because he couldn't take the stress anymore and he was tired of his life. 

Joseph Garcia

Joseph Garcia

NAMEJOSEPH GARCIA, 47

CRIME: Joined a mass prison break in Texas and participated in a subsequent crime spree that led to the murder of a police officer. He was already serving a 50-year sentence for murder. 

EXECUTION DATE: 12-5-19, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: "Dear heavenly Father, please forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Garcia was a member of the notorious "Texas 7" gang.

Robert Sparks

Robert Sparks

NAME: ROBERT SPARKS, 45

CRIME: Stabbing his wife and two stepsons and raping his two stepdaughters.

EXECUTION DATE: 9/25/19, lethal injection

LAST WORDS:  "I am sorry for the hard times. And what hurts me is that I hurt y'all ... even y'all, too," Sparks told family members who watched through death chamber windows. "I love you all. … I feel it." 

Sparks told investigators he killed his wife and 9 and 10-year-old stepsons and raped his 12 and 14-year-old stepdaughters because his family had been poisoning him and a voice told him to kill his family. He asked to be tested for poison.

Mark Soliz

Mark Soliz

NAME: MARK SOLIZ, 37

CRIME: Killing a 61-year-old grandmother during an eight-day crime spree.

EXECUTION DATE: 9/10/19

Last Words: "I wanted to apologize for the grief and the pain that I caused y'all. I've been considering changing my life. It took me 27 years to do so. Man, I want to apologize, I don't know if me passing will bring y'all comfort for the pain and suffering I caused y'all. I am at peace. Oh man, I didn't know if y'all would come or not, but I am glad y'all did so I could talk to y'all. I know the pain when I talk to my grandma. I'm just glad I got a chance to talk to y'all."

Soliz was convicted in the June 2010 killing of Nancy Weatherly in her home in Godley. Appeals to stop the execution were turned down at the state and federal levels. 

At his 2012 trial, prosecutors said Soliz and another man, Jose Ramos, committed 13 crimes over the course of eight days in June 2010. They fatally shot Ruben Martinez, a deliveryman, on June 29, 2010, and drove to Weatherly's home in a stolen car, they said.

The duo ransacked the home and shot Weatherly in the back of the head after she pleaded with them to leave her dead mother's jewelry box and spare her life, according to authorities.

Michael Brandon Samra

Michael Brandon Samra

NAME: Michael Brandon Samra, 41

CRIME: Samra and a friend, Mark Duke, were convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Duke's father, the father's girlfriend and the woman's two elementary-age daughters in 1997. The two adults were shot and the children had their throats slit. 

EXECUTION DATE: 5-16-19, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: "I would like to thank Jesus for everything he has done for me. Amen." 

Though Duke and Samra were both originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, Duke's sentence was overturned because he was 16 at the time, and the Supreme Court later banned executing inmates younger than 18 at the time of their crimes. Evidence showed that Duke planned the killings because he was angry his father wouldn't let him use his pickup.

Don Johnson 

Don Johnson 

NAME: DON JOHNSON, 68

CRIME: Suffocated his wife in 1984

EXECUTION DATE: 5-16-19, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: "No more dying here."

His lawyer said she believes the gurgling, gasping noises he was making were an indication that he could feel the pain of the three drugs. Henry said she believes Johnson would have felt like he was drowning, being buried alive and then burned.

John William King

John William King

NAME: JOHN WILLIAM KING, 44

CRIME: Put to death for his role in the murder of 49-year-old James Byrd Jr., who was chained to the back of a truck and dragged to death along a secluded road outside Jasper, approximately 130 miles northeast of Houston, early on the morning of June 7, 1998. Investigators said Byrd was alive for at least two miles before his body was ripped to pieces.

EXECUTION DATE: 4-24-19, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: No last words 

King was a white supremacist and the murder is considered one of the most notorious hate crimes in American history.

Billie Wayne Coble

Billie Wayne Coble

NAME: BILLIE WAYNE COBLE, 70

CRIME: Killing his estranged wife's parents and brother 

EXECUTION DATE: 2/28/19

Last Words: "That'll be five dollars, take care."

As Coble was finishing his statement, his son, a friend and a daughter-in-law became emotional and violent. They were yelling obscenities, throwing fists and kicking at others in the death chamber witness area. The two men were arrested. 

David Earl Miller

David Earl Miller

NAME: DAVID EARL MILLER

CRIME: used a fire poker to repeatedly bludgeon and stab Lee Standifer, a young woman who was born with mild brain damage and with whom he was on a first date nearly 40 years ago.

EXECUTION DATE: 12-6-18, electric chair

LAST WORDS:  "Beats being on death row."

Miller continually thrashed Standifer with the poker and drove the implement so deep into her in some places, officials said he would have needed to use a hammer. He claimed not to remember the murder, reportedly drunk and high on LSD at the time.

Robert Moreno Ramos

Robert Moreno Ramos

NAME: ROBERT MORENO RAMOS, 64

CRIME: He was convicted for the 1992 sledgehammer killings of his wife Leticia, 42, daughter Abigail, 7, and son Jonathan, 3, at their home in Texas.

EXECUTION DATE: 11-14-18, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: "I am getting my gold watch that it took the governor 30 years to forge. Thank you God, Lord send me a chariot. I'm ready."

Authorities said Ramos bludgeoned his family members with a sledgehammer and then buried them underneath his home's bathroom floor so he could marry the woman he was having an extramarital affair with at the time.

Edmund Zagorski

Edmund Zagorski

NAME: EDMUND ZAGORSKI 

CRIME: Killing two men during an April 1983 drug deal. Prosecutors said Zagorski shot John Dotson and Jimmy Porter and then slit their throats after robbing them when they went to him to buy marijuana.

EXECUTION DATE: 11-1-18, electric chair

LAST WORDS: "Let's rock." 

His initial execution was scheduled for Oct. 11, but the courts halted it because Zagorski, according to his lawyer, wanted to avoid the "unspeakable" torture of a lethal injection death.

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Rodney Berget

Rodney Berget

NAME: RODNEY BERGET, 56

CRIME: Killing corrections officer Ronald "R.J." Johnson during a 2011 prison escape attempt. 

EXECUTION DATE: 10/29/18

Last Words: "Is it supposed to feel like that?"

Berget was serving a life sentence for attempted murder and kidnapping when he and another inmate, Eric Robert, attacked Johnson on April 12, 2011, in a part of the penitentiary known as Pheasantland Industries, where inmates work on upholstery, signs, furniture and other projects. Johnson turned 63 on the day that he was killed, and he was nearing the end of a nearly 24-year career as a guard.

Troy Clark

Troy Clark

NAME: TROY CLARK, 51

CRIME: Clark, a drug dealer, was sentenced to death in 2000 after he was convicted of killing his former roommate in 1998 out of fear she would snitch on him. 

EXECUTION DATE: 9-26-18, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: "I'm not the one who killed Christina. But, hey, whatever makes you happy." As the drugs were coursing through his body, Clark said that it "burned going in" and laughed. "I feel it."

Clark subdued Christina Muse, 20, with a stun gun, bound her with duct tape and left her in a closet for several hours while he played video games and sold drugs to a customer, prosecutors said.

Clark later moved Muse to a bathroom where he hit her with a board and threatened his then-girlfriend, Tory Bush, into helping him drown Muse in the tub. Muse's body was then stuffed into a barrel with cement mix and lime before being dumped in a ravine.

Carey Dean Moore

Carey Dean Moore

NAME: CAREY DEAN MOORE, 60

CRIME: He was convicted in 1979 for the murder of two cab drivers in Omaha.

EXECUTION DATE: 8-14-18, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: In his final written statement, he admitted his guilt but said that there are others on Nebraska's death row who he believes are innocent and should be released.

Moore was the first inmate to be lethally injected in Nebraska, which carried out its last execution in 1997 using the electric chair.

Michael Lee Wilson

Michael Lee Wilson

NAME: MICHAEL LEE WILSON, 38

CRIME: He was convicted in the killing of Richard Yost, 30, his coworker. 

EXECUTION DATE: 1-9-14, lethal injection

LAST WORDS: "I feel my whole body burning."

He was the third person executed for the February 25, 1995, crime; the fourth defendant is serving a life term.

Timothy McVeigh

Timothy McVeigh

NAME: Timothy McVeigh, 33

CRIME: Killing 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. 

EXECUTION DATE:6-11-01, lethal injection 

LAST WORDS: He handed a William Earnest Henley poem to a guard that ended "I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul."

He is the only terrorist executed by the federal government.

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy

NAME: John Wayne Gacy

CRIME: Raping and murdering at least 33 men. 

EXECUTION DATE: 5-10-94, lethal injection 

LAST WORDS: Kiss my a--." 

He is sometimes known as the "killer clown" because he would often dress as one for events. 

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy (Getty Images)

NAME: Ted Bundy

CRIME: Kidnapping, rape and murder of dozens of women. 

EXECUTION DATE: 1-24-89, electric chair 

LAST WORDS: "I'd like to give my love to my family and friends."

Bundy admitted to killing 36 women, but experts believe he may have murdered more than 100, always brutally.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

NAME: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

CRIME: Espionage, specifically conspiring to give U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet Union 

EXECUTION DATE: 6-19-53, electric chair

LAST WORDS: No last words before execution; In their last letter to their young children they wrote, "We press you close and kiss you with all our strength."

The couple met at the Young Communist League and protested their innocence until their controversial execution. They were the first U.S. civilians to be executed for spying.