Explores some of the unusual and even humorous facts attending capital punishment.
by Bonnie Bobit
Did You Know?
Frank Johnson was the first death row inmate electrocuted in Florida. He met his fate with the electric chair on October 7, 1924. Throughout 1929 and from May 12, 1964 to May 24, 1979, there were no executions in Florida.
The executioner in Florida is an anonymous, private citizen who is paid $150 per execution. The position of executioner was advertised in the classified section of several Florida newspapers in 1978.
The electrocution cycle is two minutes or shorter in duration. During the cycle, voltage and amperage levels peak on three occasions. Maximum current is 2,000 volts and 14 amps.
In Florida, death row inmates may receive mail and have a limited number of magazine subscriptions. They also may have cigarettes, snacks, radios and B & W televisions in their cells. Occasionally, an inmate will play chess with a neighboring cellmate.
In the state of Florida:
30.2 is the average age at the time of offense.
37 years is the average age of a death row inmate.
40.9 years is the average age at time of execution.
Did You Know?
During 1995, there were 56 inmates executed in the United States, all males:
33 were white
22 were black
1 was Asian
Out of those 56:
49 died by lethal injection
7 died by electrocution
Did You Know?
California leads the nation with 494 death row inmates as of Dec. 31, 1997. During 1997, new death row inmates in the state averaged three per month.
Death Row studies show that incarceration costs approximately $20,000 per year, per inmate. Condemned inmates average 9.9 years (down from 11.2 in 1996) awaiting execution. By the time someone is executed, taxpayers have shelled out about $2 million in legal fees for each death row inmate's defense.
The number of American soldiers killed during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, where Timothy McVeigh served and was decorated, was less than the number killed in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.
In Pennsylvania, nearly half of its 200 death row inmates come from Philadelphia which has only 14 percent of the state's population.
Texas led the nation in executions for 1997 and 1998. More than one-third of its death row inmates come from Houston and are sentenced in Harris County.
As of December 31, 1997, California led the nation with 494 death row inmates. But executions are rare; since 1963, the state has only executed four inmates.
David Stoker was executed June 16, 1997 in Huntsville, Tex., for the murder of a convenience store clerk. His final words were, ''Let's rock 'n' roll.''
After Willie Jasper Darden was executed on March 15, 1988, someone inside the prison played ''Taps'' when it was announced he was dead.
Earl Edward Johnson's last words on May 20, 1987, were, ''Please let's get it over with!''
James E. Messer Jr., who spent most of his time on death row complaining about the food, had two Whoppers from Burger King, french fries, a milkshake and a pie for his last meal.
Michael Marnell Smith requested to hold a bible during his electrocution on July 31, 1986, but his request was denied because the Bible would have presented a possible fire hazard.
Before Charles Francis Rumbaugh was executed on Sept. 11, 1985, he had escaped from jail, stabbed a guard and built an 8-inch coffin out of matches.
Earnest Knighton Jr.'s last words on Oct. 30, 1984, were, ''I'm going home to heaven.''Ronald Clark O'Bryan, executed March 31, 1984, donated his eyes for transplant. He had been an optician by occupation.
Arthur Frederick Goode's last request on Apr. 5, 1984, included a meal of steak, corn, broccoli and cookies and a request to be allowed to have sexual intercourse with ''a sexy little boy. ''
Jesse Walter Bishop's last words on Oct. 22, 1979, were, ''I've always wanted to try everything once. ...Let's go!''