Archive for the Firing squad Category

Famous last words

Posted in Death penalty, Electric chair, Firing squad, Hanged, Lethal injection on September 22 by Last Writes

Ever wondered what goes through someone’s mind as they prepare to meet their maker? We did, so here’s a compilation…

Funny one-liners

“Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries’!”
Those were the last words of one James French, as he addressed journalists there to witness his grizzly end.
Already in prison for life, James French purposely frittered away his life on 10 August 1966  by killing his cell-mate. The 30-year-old  was sentenced to the electric chair and met his frazzled end in Oklahoma.

“Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”
So said George Appel as he flash-fried on the electric chair on 9 August 1928 for killing a policeman.

“Why, yes, a bulletproof vest.”
The natural last request came from mobster Domonic Willard as he faced a firing squad. A few decades later, James W. Rodgers was to ask again.

“I’d rather be fishing”
Ain’t that the truth according to Jimmy L. Glass as he was angled towards a decidedly uncomfy seat in Louisiana’s electric chair on 12 June 1987. The 25-year-old was fried for murdering a middle-aged couple. His accomplice followed four days later.

“Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l’ai pas fait expres”
Translation: Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.
Stepping on the toes of her executioner should have been the least of Marie Antoinette’s worries on 16 October 1793. The 37-year-old had a date with Madame la Guillotine on this day as a one of the key victims of the French Revolution.

Nearly botched the jobs

“Take a step forward lads – it’ll be easier that way.”
That was the handy hint issued by Robert Erskine Childers as he faced his firing squad on 24 November 1922.  A Irish nationlist, he was executed during the Civil War, apparently while his appeal was still being  processed.

“You guys doin’ that right?”
That was the question on Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams lips on 13 December 2005 , as his executioners fumbled around with the lethal injection equipment.

Plaintive pleas

“Please don’t let me fall.”
Ah the irony of the words uttered on 7 July 1865 as Mary Surratt headed up to the heady heights of the scaffold erected for her hanging.
Co-conspirator in the plan to assassinate President Lincoln, Mary Surratt’s other claim to infamy was as the first woman executed by the United States’ federal government.

“Is it safe?”
Rugeley Poisoner William Palmer seemed preoccupied with the stability of the gallows trap. But it was a moot point seeing as the 31-year-old was preparing for his public hanging on 14 June 1865. The former doctor hit the scaffold on this day for lacing his friend John Cook’s diet with strychnine, as well as killing others and cashing in on their deaths.

Bit late for that…

“Yes, no last words”
Elijah Page didn’t think that one through on 11 July 2007. The 26-year-old uttered those words during the first execution in South Dakota in 60 years. He was lethally injected for forcing a friend to drink acid, before beating him to death over a period of three hours.

Descent into hell

“I’ll be in Hell before you start breakfast! Let her rip!”
And let rip they did, because the rope around Tom ‘Black Jack’ Ketchum’s neck was too long. The 37-year-old train robber literally lost his head when it came clean off as he hanged on 26 April 1901.

“Hurry up. I’d like to be in hell in time for dinner.”
Edward H. Ruloff, a convicted serial killer rushed proceedings along  on 18 May 1871 after he was sentenced to death for killing his wife, daughter, sister-in-law and niece.
Not only was he infamous as the last person to have a public hanging in the State of New York but also because he was purported to have the largest brain in a Cornell professor’s collection.

“If anyone has a message for the Devil, give it to me – I’ll deliver it!”
Lavinia Fisher announced her offer as she faced being hanged for murder on February 18, 1820.
One half of a husband and wife hotelier team who would poison and stab residents, the Fishers were sentenced to death on 18 February 1820. At that time South Carolina women couldn’t be executed, so following her husband’s death, newly widowed Fisher rocked up for her own hanging garbed in a wedding dress. She’d hope to take advantage of the residing priest by bagging herself a would-be husband on the way to the scaffold. However as hopes of matrimony faded fast, she uttered her defiant words .

Today’s post is dedicated to the founder of this site and his lovely bride to be. All the best for your wedding day Old Sparky.

31 January 1945 – Eddie Slovik

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , on January 31 by Old Sparky

Eddie SlovikUS World War II Private Eddie Slovik became the only deserter out of 21,000 soldiers to be executed.

General Eisenhower is said to have given the go-ahead so his death could be used as an example to others.

Previously while training, Slovik had asked to be transferred to a non-combat post. But he had been refused, because they needed men on the frontline.


‘I am so unlucky’ he shrewdly wrote to his wife in 1944, before he’d even been posted anywhere. And how right he was. Of the 21,000 soldiers who were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, 49 received the death penalty. But only Edward Donald Slovik actually came face to face with the firing squad, as he became the only US soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War, which ended in 1865.

He was shot on this day in 1945, and to make matters worse his poor wife had absolutely no idea.

To find out more about this fascinating case check out William Bradford Huie’s book, The Execution of Private Slovik.

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31 January 1923 – Eligiusz Niewiadomski

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , on January 31 by Old Sparky

Eligiusz Niewiadomski

Polish right-winger Eligiusz Niewiadomski was executed in 1923 for assassinating Poland’s first President.

He was sentenced to death for shooting Gabriel Narutowicz at an art exhibition in Warsaw.

Known for his modernist paintings, art critic Niewiadomski was a member of the right-wing National Democratic Party in the early 1900s. But he became disaffected after they lost the first election.

No chance

Poland was a young nation and went on to elect its first President in the shape of Narutowicz. Indeed he was inaugurated on 16 December 1922. But a mere five days later, he was dead.

Niewiadomski was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by a firing squad. His execution took place at the Citadel in Warsaw and he was buried at the city’s Powązki Cemetery.

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26 January 1996 – John Albert Taylor

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , , on January 26 by Old Sparky

John Albert Taylor

Firing squads ceased to be offered as a death penalty method following John Albert Taylor’s execution in Utah in 1996.

Taylor was executed by firing squad in Utah on 26 January 1996 in an alleged sensational bid to embarrass the largely Mormon political population. A commentator at the time said ‘he wanted to cause more trouble for the state’.

Taylor purported that he didn’t want the lethal injection because he didn’t want to flap around ‘like a dying fish’, but many believe it is because he was making a point.

Out dated

You see, the Mormons were desperately trying to phase out firing squads as a method of ‘blood atonement’, ie, a death for a death. It was felt that the execution method was anachronistic – it no longer seemed fitting in the modern day.

Similarly, Utah was keen to stop offering death by firing squad, because it enabled murderers to exit in a blaze of glory.

Cue, paedophile Taylor, who was convicted of the 1988 rape of 11-year-old Charla King who he then strangled to death. His own fingerprints were found on the cord wound tight around the child’s neck, linking him unequivocally to the murder. And in turn, the murder led to his death penalty.

Shot to the heart

Five rifles were used to put Taylor the death and, according to the ‘New York Times’, the shooters apparently took aim at a white circle on his blue jumpsuit, which helped them target his heart.

The execution took place within the confines of the Utah-based prison, but not without controversy. The 36-year-old is currently the last person to have been executed in the United States by firing squad, and the penalty only remains legal in Idaho and Oklahoma.

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18 January 1917 – Joseph Stones, Peter Goggins and John McDonald

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , on January 18 by Old Sparky

Lance-Sergeant Joseph Stones

Three First World War soldiers were posthumously pardoned 90 years on, after they’d been executed for so-called cowardice in 1917.

Around 300-plus soldiers were shot for cowardice during the World War I. But it was these three young servicemen, in particular, who were to represent those ranks who were branded deserters.

For years the families of those men were ashamed to even mention their ancestors – why? Because threre was a stigma attached to having a so-called war coward in the family. And so they were all but erradicated from the families’ history. But their army lives were far from shameful, as younger relatives were to find out.

Under fire

Lance Corporal Peter Goggins and Sergeant Joseph “Will” Stones, both County Durham men, plus Corporal John McDonald from Sunderland, were done for deserting their posts. In actual fact, they were told to retreat 20 yards to a reserve trench, when they came under heavy artillery fire.

The most heart-rending story was that of Stones (pictured), who had actually earned three awards for bravery during his three years’ service. He was done for slinging his gun away when he’d actually thrown it at Germans as they rushed him. He then legged it to warn the rest of his troops on the instruction of his officer, who was wounded. But his actions backfired when he was branded a coward instead.

Court martialled

The irony is that these soldiers survived the hostile enemy attacks only to be shot by their fellow men for retreating. They were court martialled and found guilty. The soldiers were then put in chains, blindfolded and tied to stakes, where they were shot at dawn.

Just under 90 years on, after tireless campaigning from newer members of the family, these three men plus others were reprieved and granted pardons posthumously. Their names now take pride of place alongside other men’s names who died for their country.

Also on this day

18 January 1803 – George Foster

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17 January 1977 – Gary Gilmore

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , , on January 17 by Old Sparky

Gary Gilmore

‘Let’s do it’, said Gary Mark Gilmore as he faced his firing squad on this day in 1977.

The American murderer was sentenced to death for killing a Utah motel manager Bennie Bushnell in 1976.

Gilmore had the choice of hanging or being shot and he chose the latter.

As is the rule in Utah, and so no one would carry the can for Gilmore’s death, one of the five-man firing squad had a gun loaded with blanks in a grim take on Russian roulette. Within a year of the death penalty having been made legal again, he became the first person to executed.

Also on this day

17 January 2006 – Clarence Ray Allen

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13 January 1979 – Ginggaew

Posted in Firing squad with tags , , , , on January 13 by Last Writes

Despite having a body riddled with bullets, Thai prisoner Ginggaew had to be executed twice to finish off the job.

A maid and a nanny, Ginggaew had to be executed by firing squad twice for her part in the kidnap and stabbing of her employers’ son in Thailand.

In a dispute over pay, Ginggaew’s boyfriend came up with the plan to kidnap the son and hold him to ransom. But the plot failed.

Incensed, the six-strong gang turned on the boy and stabbed him to death, despite Ginggaew’s protestations.

Die hard

Three of the members got the death penalty, including Ginggaew, who hadn’t actually killed anyone. She was hauled up in front of a firing squad and guns containing 10 bullets were emptied into her. Seemingly dead they dragged her bloodied corpse out to the morgue and quickly moved on to the next execution.

Die harder

It was only then that they noticed Ginggaew trying to lift her stricken body off the morgue slab. Said one of the executioners present, ‘The escorts rushed back into the room. One of them turned her over and put pressure on her chest to make the blood gush out faster. Another tried to strangle her. But…it was wrong of them to kill her in this manner.’ So they stopped and only once they’d executed the next victim did they bring her back in and do the job again, this time with 15 bullets.

Also on this day

1752 – Rachel Beachem

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