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Of Guilt, Defiance, and Repentance: Evidence From the Texas Death Chamber

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 26 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 295-326
Stephen K. Rice; Danielle Dirks; Julie J. Exline
Date Published
June 2009
32 pages
This study investigated an initial, systematic examination of final statements of condemned inmates
Results revealed that of the 341 executions that took place in Texas during the period of December 7, 1982 through June 7, 2005, 269 inmates chose to make final statements when given the opportunity to do so. Victims' rights effects were modeled by comparing the emotional content of death narratives before and after January 12, 1996, the date in which homicide survivors were provided the opportunity to attend executions in Texas. Condemned inmates were more repentant than defiant in final statements, as 36 percent of inmates expressed guilt and 32 percent were repentant just prior to execution. Defiant emotions were less commonplace in that 19 percent of inmates who proclaimed innocence, and 10 percent remarked on the illegitimacy of capital punishment, and 10 percent described injustice in their legal proceedings. The inclusion of survivors at executions was strongly associated with guilt and repentance in inmates; inmates were 17 times more likely to repent in the years following the inclusion of homicide survivors at executions than in the years prior. Findings suggest that attention should be paid to the balance between the rights of survivors, the rights of inmates, and underlying power differentials between the two. Data were collected from 341 Texas death row inmates; 269 inmates who chose to make a final statement and 72 who did not. Tables, figures, references, and appendixes