There is something unsettling about being privy to the last words uttered by a person who knows he or she is about die, especially if that person is about to be executed on death row. Depending on who hears them, the words can provide feelings of anger, heart-wrenching sadness, or even detached curiosity.
Prisoners who are about to be executed are traditionally allowed to make a final statement. These final words are usually addressed to loved ones, and contain poignant goodbyes, or are used to convey a message to family of a victim. The latter often contain sincere apologies and regrets for taking someone’s life, but also may be used to profess innocence for one last time. Criticizing the justice system is also common. Most final words are not as eloquent as those of American patriot Nathan Hale, who is reported to have commented before he was hanged by the British in 1776, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Usually it is only the last words of a famous killer that draws media attention , but according to the New York Times, Texas and California write down the final statements of those they are about to execute and have made them available online for all to examine. Texas, which has executed 500 people, has the largest collection of last words of any state in the U.S.