What is a Final Statement?

N. Madison
N. Madison

A final statement is a death row inmate’s last words. Often, a death row inmate is given the right to make a final statement before he is executed. In some cases, death row inmates take this time to apologize for their crimes while others assert their innocence a final time. Others say goodbye to family members, friends, and supporters, and some even say prayers aloud. In some cases, however, death row criminals use their final statements to say last words of defiance, often including profanity that may be directed at the victim's family, the legal system, the executors, or prison guards.

A final statement contains the last words of an inmate before execution.
A final statement contains the last words of an inmate before execution.

It is common practice to allow a death row inmate to give a final statement just before his execution begins. Often, there are similarities among the statements. For example, many inmates use their final statements to apologize. The apologies are often for the things they have done wrong. Some apologize not only to the victims' families and loved ones, but also to their own families for committing crimes that caused them emotional pain. Others may just apologize to no one in particular.

Prayers may be included in an inmate's last statement.
Prayers may be included in an inmate's last statement.

Often, death row inmates include messages of forgiveness in their final statements as well. For example, a death row inmate may tell those who will execute him that he forgives them, in advance, for doing so. This is a common statement an inmate may make without regard to whether or not he is guilty. For instance, a death row inmate may claim he is innocent but state that he forgives the justice system for taking his life despite his innocence. Others may not assert they are innocent but state they consider executions unfair, barbaric, or murder before offering their forgiveness as well.

Sometimes an inmate’s final statement is used to profess his innocence a last time while another inmate may confess for the first time. Some inmates may want others to know they will not change their professions of innocence. Other inmates may want to confess their crimes before they die.

Prayers or talk of God also are often included in an inmate’s last statement. An inmate may pray that he will be received by God after death, or he may say he knows he is going to meet God. Sometimes an inmate’s last statement also includes talk of going to meet other loved ones who have already died.

Some death row inmates make final statements that are filled with anger. They may curse the legal system, lawyers, or even the victim. Often, they direct their words of anger at the prison guards or warden as well. Some refuse to say anything at all.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


@momothree- Final statements and final meals are not really in the same category. Final statements are allowed to be given the moment before the execution. The final meal can be the night before the execution or the day of the execution.

Different states vary on the “final meal” rule. Some states will actually accommodate the inmates’ request of whatever they prefer. Journalist Jeremy Harlan gives one example in an article he wrote. He visited several different facilities to see how they did the final meal. In Virginia, the inmate is allowed to pick anything from the facility’s 28-day cycle menu. The meal must be finished within four hours of the execution.

However, as Harlan noted, a Texas inmate chose the following for his final meal: Three pieces of chicken, two catfish filets, green onions, tartar sauce, crumbled eggs, two double bacon cheeseburgers, fries, and a milkshake.

They must make out their meal plan fourteen days in advance.


In addition to a final statement, do inmates on death row also get to choose their final meal?

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