California · Executions · Famous Last Words

The violent end of Robert Otis Pierce

Famous Last Words
Robert Otis Pierce
San Quentin, California
April 6, 1956

“You’re the ones that put me here. God, you’re a dirty son of a bitch because I’m innocent!”

Pierce and accomplice Smith Jordan (alternatively spelled Jordon or Jordann) robbed a cabdriver who died as a result of the injuries Pierce inflicted by beating him over the head with the butt of his gun; the criminals were able to get $7 and a wristwatch from the robbery.

Pierce had allegedly vowed to “go out the hard way,” trying to make his execution as difficult as possible for prison officials. The day before his execution, Pierce smashed the toilet in his cell with a wooden stool and tore the plumbing from the walls. Because of this behavior, he was put in isolation his last day on Earth. The warden stated he did not enjoy the thought of a condemned man spending his final day in solitude but feared other inmates might follow his lead if the actions went unpunished.

The day of his execution, Pierce sliced his throat with a mirror shard, bandaged the wound with a prison shirt, adamantly proclaimed his innocence, told witnesses his final words as he accused them of framing him, required four guards to force him into the chair in the gas chamber, cried, swore, and bled before finally dying.

The polar opposite was his accomplice Jordan, executed the same day. He was reported to have entered the gas chamber “so quietly he was almost unnoticed” though he “looked contemptuously at his partner in crime.”

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