James French (murderer)

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James French
James Donald French

DiedAugust 10, 1966(1966-08-10) (aged 29–30)
Criminal chargeMurder
PenaltyLife imprisonment, death

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 subsequently "resisted all efforts to spare his life" and walked calmly into the execution chamber at 10:00 p.m; the Associated Press reporter at the scene wrote that "James Donald French got what he demanded: death in the electric chair," and commented that "He faced death with the same cockiness he faced life." [4]

In later years, French's last words before his death by electric chair would be said to have been "How's this for your headline? 'French Fries'".[5] The story appeared as early as 1977 in The Book of Lists, but contemporaneous accounts of the execution mentioned only one of the "cocky" inmate's remarks, and reported that when prison warden Ray Page asked if French had any last words, "French replied: 'Everything's already been said.'" [6]

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. ^ "Cocky Slayer Gets Wish: Execution", AP report in Wilmington (DE) News-Journal, August 11, 1966, p. 1
  5. ^ Tibballs, Geoff (2004). The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-1407-0
  6. ^ "Gets His Wish, Dies In Chair", Cincinnati Enquirer, August 11, 1968, p. 1

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