The first federal execution under the United States Constitution took place 230 years ago in Portland, Maine. For his crime of murder on the high seas, Thomas Bird was hanged on June 25, 1790.
Ever since that day, hundreds of notorious criminals in many states all over the country have been put to death.
As society advances, death sentences are getting much less prevalent. It remains one of the most debated issues in politics, with a lot of people opposing the penalty. Currently, 28 states still enforce the death penalty.
Most juries are more willing to sentence defendants with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole than the death penalty, given the options. Inmates can spend decades on death row, during which some confessed to their crimes.
Like today’s death row prisoners during a few moments before execution, Bird had the chance to say some last words. He used the opportunity to proclaim his innocence, although it didn’t change his conviction.
Confessions and last-words before execution are often horrifying and scary, and sometimes downright nonsensical. Here are a few examples.
10 Paul Ezra Rhoades
Convicted in three separate kidnappings and murders, Paul Ezra Rhoades was sentenced to death in Idaho in March 1988. He was ultimately executed by lethal injection on November 18, 2011.
His final words before execution sounded much like a confession. To Bert Michelbacher, whose wife Rhoades killed, he said he was sorry for taking part in her murder.
Rhoades even took the time to look at the executioner and said, “I forgive you, I do,” even though the executioner probably didn’t care.
9 Christina Marie Riggs
At around 10 p.m. on November 4, 1997, a licensed nurse Christina Marie Riggs injected undiluted potassium chloride into her 5-year-old son Justin, who screamed in agony for the pain caused.
Riggs smothered the boy with a pillow. She then moved on to her 2-years-old daughter Shelby, only to commit just about the same crime.
Before her execution on May 2, 2000, Riggs said the following, “There is no way words can express how sorry I am for taking the lives of my babies. Now I can be with my babies, as I always intended.”