James French (murderer)

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James French
Born James Donald French
Died August 10, 1966(1966-08-10) (aged 29–30)
Criminal charge Murder
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment, death
Victims 2

James D. French (ca. 1936 – 10 August 1966) was an American criminal who was the last person executed under Oklahoma's death penalty laws prior to Furman v. Georgia, which suspended capital punishment in America from 1972 until 1976. He was also the only prisoner executed in the United States that year.[1] Already in prison for life for killing a motorist who had picked him up from hitchhiking in 1958, allegedly French desired to die but lacked the courage to commit suicide; and so instead murdered his cellmate, apparently to compel the state to execute him.[2][3]

French's last words before his death by electric chair were "How's this for your headline? 'French Fries'".[4]

This was the last execution by electric chair in the United States before Furman v. Georgia; after the moratorium on capital punishment was lifted, the first electrocution was John Spenkelink in 1979 in Florida. Gary Gilmore was the first execution carried out by firing squad 1977 in Utah.


  1. ^ Staff report. (Feb. 17, 1967) The Dying Death Penalty.[dead link] Time
  2. ^ van Wormer, Katherine (12/8/1995). Execution-inspired murder a form of suicide? Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 22 Issue: 3/4
  3. ^ White, Welsh S. (1991). The Death Penalty in the Nineties: An Examination of the Modern System of Capital Punishment. University of Michigan Press. p. 178. Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. 
  4. ^ Tibballs, Geoff (2004). The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-1407-0

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