Sunday, December 20, 2009

Some Last Words

Not from me of course. I'm sure I have many more words to come (the second half of 2009 not withstanding). The last words in question come from a subset of the population of Texas, namely those who were executed by the state.

I initially came across this while browsing through the Popular Items in Google Reader, and curious as to where it came from, followed the link and explored a bit, soon arriving at this page, which gives info on almost three decades of executees.

Going through such a collection may seem a bit grim or morbid, but also an interesting look into the state of mind of these people. The main thing that stands out amongst them all is the acceptance of imminent death. None I've read try and stop the execution, even those proclaiming their innocence. I'm not sure of how long before the execution they are told of the exact day that will be their last, the time on death row nonetheless gives plenty of time to come to terms with the idea. (While writing this I thought of perhaps a cruel way to schedule executions. Once the death sentence is confirmed, and all the appeals and such are done, apply some random chance (about 1 in 100 sounds like the right ball park. 1 in 10 is too low and 1 in 1000 is too high), and each day the prisoner either told "not today" or taken off to be executed. This could perhaps be calculated beforehand to aid in scheduling, so long as the actual day of execution is not communicated to the inmate)

Other themes that come through include remorse and denial, although these never come together. The remorseful seem genuine, and there's not much to be gained by them. The deniers are hard to judge just from the words, but knowing the statistics it seems likely that there were some innocent men in there.

I'm still not sure what exactly to make of the site. I'm pretty sure it's been put online purely as part of making public records more available, but such documents have more meaning than just that they exist. Capitol punishment is mostly something that happens in the distance, as an abstract thing. Few people see it as it happens, and fewer still would be there in circumstances of their choosing. So the chance to see that the people executed are real and to read their words brings it home that it is flesh and blood humans that are facing their end here, and that is something that should not be lost.

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