I was over at the YMCA the other day, working out an elliptical machine while deep in conversation with the guy on the machine next to me about the impending execution of Donald Moeller.
The talk had drifted to the execution two weeks ago of Eric Robert, the inmate who killed a correctional officer at the state penitentiary 18 months ago. I asked him if he thought the public was concerned about penitentiary staff being part of the Robert execution team since they would have had a personal connection to the slain officer, Ronald “R.J.” Johnson.
He didn’t think so. In fact, his view was that 90 percent of the South Dakota public cares about only two things when it comes to putting someone to death: When was the guy executed, and what were his last words?
Beyond that, they’re not tuned in, he said.
I wonder if he’s right? Interestingly enough, I’ve run across a web site for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that details the 488 executions that state has performed since 1982. Beyond a few identifying notes about the inmate – name, age, crime committed and where it occurred – they actually offer the public just two other pertinent pieces of information:
The date of the inmate’s execution and his last words. Here is the address for that web site.
The last statements are interesting reading, when the inmate actually gives a statement. They run the gamut from declaring their innocence to declaring they have found the Lord.
Here’s a partial example from the last inmate put to death in Texas, Bobby Lee Hines, who was executed last Wednesday for murdering a 26-year-old Dallas woman with an ice pick and stealing four packs of cigarettes, a bowl of pennies and a gold charm from her in October 1991.
“To the victim’s family, I am sure I know that I took somebody special from ya’ll. I know it wasn’t right, it was wrong. I wish I could give it back, but know I can’t. If giving my life in return makes it right, so be it. I ask that ya’ll forgive me. I know God forgave me. I know He has forgiven me for what I did. I don’t believe that taking my life will solve anything. I believe that if I was locked up for the rest of my life, that would be more of a punishment. To do this is setting me free. God bless ya’ll. … “