Dead Men Talking: Content Analysis of Prisoners' Last Words, Innocence Claims and News Coverage from Texas' Death Row

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Condemned prisoners in Texas and most other states are given an opportunity to make a final statement in the last moments before death. An anecdotal review by the author of this study over the last 15 years indicates that condemned prisoners use the opportunity for a variety of purposes. They ask forgiveness, explain themselves, lash out at accusers, rail at the system, read poems, say goodbyes to friends and family, praise God, curse fate - and assert their innocence with their last breaths. The final words also are typically heard by a select group of witnesses, which may include a ... continued below

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Malone, Dan F. August 2006.

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  • Malone, Dan F.

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Condemned prisoners in Texas and most other states are given an opportunity to make a final statement in the last moments before death. An anecdotal review by the author of this study over the last 15 years indicates that condemned prisoners use the opportunity for a variety of purposes. They ask forgiveness, explain themselves, lash out at accusers, rail at the system, read poems, say goodbyes to friends and family, praise God, curse fate - and assert their innocence with their last breaths. The final words also are typically heard by a select group of witnesses, which may include a prisoner's family and friends, victim's relatives, and one or more journalists. What the public knows about a particular condemned person's statement largely depends on what the journalists who witness the executions chose to include in their accounts of executions, the accuracy of their notes, and the completeness of the statements that are recorded on departments of correction websites or records. This paper will examine, through rhetorical and content analyses, the final words of the 355 prisoners who were executed in Texas between 1976 and 2005, identify those who made unequivocal claims of innocence in their final statements, and analyze news coverage of their executions by the Associated Press.

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  • August 2006

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 5, 2008, 2:46 p.m.

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  • Dec. 15, 2008, 4:52 p.m.

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Malone, Dan F. Dead Men Talking: Content Analysis of Prisoners' Last Words, Innocence Claims and News Coverage from Texas' Death Row, thesis, August 2006; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc5358/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .