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Someone who has been convicted of a capital crime is placed in a special cell on 24-hour watch (to prevent him from cheating the executioner by committing suicide), shortly before his execution is to take place. Often, certain visitors such as the convict's lawyer or a priest, will be allowed to visit him in the last hours before he is taken out to walk to the death chamber. In some states, a person who has been sentenced to death is put on death row and waits, typically eight years or longer, before taking the walk (unless his death sentence is overturned on appeal). Both the cells and the walkway to the death chamber are collectively identified as Death Row.

Often accompanied by an Acquitted Too Late story.

Examples of Death Row include:


Film

  • I Want to Live - Probably one of Susan Hayward's finest roles, certainly the one for which she won an Academy Award as best actress.
  • The Life of David Gale - Texas claims it has never executed an innocent person. Will David Gale be the first?

Literature

  • The book and film versions of The Green Mile center on the guards of the death row wing of a prison, and the condemned messiah they meet amid the usual inmates.

Live Action TV

  • CBS Schoolbreak Special: The installment "Dead Wrong: The John Evans Story," is the true story of a convicted murderer who was executed in 1983 for his crimes. Evans agreed to share his story for the TV special as a cautionary tale, urging teen-agers to make good decisions, make the right friends and stay away from drugs. The interview is wrapped around a re-creation of Evans' crimes, which begin with him as a juvenile and progressively grow worse until a 1977 crime spree that culminated in the slaying of a pawn shop owner in Alabama (a young Nicole Eggert plays one of the businessman's daughters, who witnesses the crime). A re-creation of Evans' execution in the closing moments of the special provides a chilling end to re-inforce the message; the real Evans was put to death days after he gave the interview.
  • Murder In Coweta County: The critically acclaimed 1983 made-for-TV film is the true story of John Wallace (1896-1950), a wealthy and corrupt landowner from Meriwether County, Georgia, who was executed for the 1948 murder of Wilson Turner, an autistic sharecropper whom Wallace accused of stealing cattle from his property. Wallace had the Meriwether County sheriff under his thumb, but he and his goons made the mistake of killing the sharecropper in neighboring Coweta County, whose sheriff (Lamar Potts) not only was no-nonsense but couldn't be bought. Wallace was eventually arrested, tried and convicted of Turner's murder and despite appeals was put to death in the electric chair. It was the testimony of two of Wallace's former minions (who happened to be African American) and some say Wallace's own arrogance that led to his downfall. The TV movie starred Andy Griffith as Wallace, and Johnny Cash as his nemesis Potts, both in highly memorable and universally praised performances.
  • The Twilight Zone: Dennis Weaver is on death row, and he's trying to convince everyone it's Only a Dream.
  • A two-part Laverne and Shirley episode has Laverne somehow being mistaken for a wanted murderer and placed on death row. It probably goes without saying that this is one of the sillier applications of the trope.
  • Linc in Prison Break is on Death Row.

Video Games

  • One of the levels of Duke Nukem puts Duke in the electric chair (or rather an incredibly ineffectual one), and he has to escape to stop the aliens.
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