Execution, arguably the ultimate “most horrifying” moment a person could face. It stands to reason you wouldn’t expect death row inmates to be cracking jokes in the moments before their deaths. It surely takes some kind of psychopathy, bravery, or gallows humor (literally, in this case) to tell jokes right before an injection or electrocution.
Between 1976 and 2006, nearly 1,500 people were executed in the United States. Some used their last minutes to express heartfelt apologies to victims or families, some claimed innocence until the very end. A few greeted death with lighthearted quips.
“Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”
George Appel uttered the world’s most depressing (or hilarious, depending on your sense of humor) pun while strapped to the electric chair in New York City. He was given the death sentence for killing a police officer in 1928.
“Yes, hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around!”
Carl Panzram was a busy serial killer, rapist, and burglar. He claimed to have committed 22 murders and more than 1,000 rapes. Panzram was executed by hanging in Kansas on September 5, 1930.
“How’s this for a headline? ‘French Fries.’”
James D. French was the only prisoner executed in the United States in 1966. He was sentenced to life in prison for committing a first-degree murder, then upgraded to the electric chair after murdering his cellmate.
“Well, the Lord is going to get another one.”
John Smith, along with his wife, was sentenced to death for the murder of a couple, to claim their insurance money. Smith’s wife, Rebecca Akins Smith Machetti, was the male victim’s ex-wife. Smith was electrocuted in Georgia on December 15, 1983.
“Yeah, I think I’d rather be fishing.”
There’s a lot of things you’d rather be doing than frying in an electric chair. For Jimmy Glass, the preferred activity was fishing. The 25-year-old man was executed in 1987 for shooting a couple to death during a burglary in 1982.
In case you didn’t get it, Gary Burris’s last words referred to a popular catchphrase from Star Trek. Burris was executed by lethal injection on November 20, 1997, for shooting a taxi driver in Indianapolis.
“Where’s my stunt double when you need one?”
Gutierrez was only 18 when he carjack his 40-year-old victim and shot him twice. The crime occurred one morning in 1997, when Gutierrez and two friends intended to steal a red Mazda RX-7 for parts. The victim, an Air Force Captain named Jose Cobo, was shot attempting to escape. Gutierrez was executed ten years later by lethal injection.
Patrick Bryan Knight
“Death has set me free. That’s the biggest joke. I deserve this. And the other joke is that I’m not Patrick Bryan Knight and y’all can’t stop this execution now.”
Patrick Knight abducted Walter and Mary Ann Werner before killing them, in August 1991. When awaiting trial, he threatened to kill his cellmate with a sharp tool made from a hanger. Knight was executed by lethal injection on 26 June, 2007, in Texas.
Christopher Scott Emmett
“Tell my family and friends I love them. Tell the governor he just lost my vote.”
Before Christopher Emmet was injected, he unsuccessfully argued that Virginia’s method of execution was unconstitutional. He was executed on July 24, 2008, for beating a co-worker to death with a lamp in 2001.
Jeffrey David Matthews
“I think that the governor’s phone is broke. He hadn’t called yet.”
Jeffrey Matthews was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on June 17, 2010, for murdering his great uncle 17 years earlier. However, then-governor Brad Henry called and asked for the evidence to be re-examined. The same thing happened on Matthews’s next scheduled execution date, a month later.
In August, on the date of his third execution, Matthews received yet another stay, on account of problems with the drug used for lethal injection. His execution was rescheduled to January 2011. The governor didn’t call again.