Death Row

"She will perish in Zordoom"
—The Zoni, telling Clank about Talwyn's capture - Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction

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.

Not to be confused with the record label that was home to Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and 2Pac.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora and his friends are placed in a Pit Cell in Space Paranoids after they meddled with the computer against Leon's warnings (with help from a fluffy blue alien). In the manga, the trio are outright confirmed by Tron himself that they have been sentenced to death as per the MCP's desire to prove that programs are superior to the users. This is never stated in the game, but it's implied, considering that they are later placed on a Death Course.


  • 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?


  • 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 All Just 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.
  • The X-Files:
    • Luther Lee Boggs from the episode "Beyond the Sea" is a mass murdered whose previous experience on a Death Row triggered his psychic abilities. This time he's about to be executed once again and tries to gain a deal by saving two young people who were kidnapped.
    • Episode "The "List" featured prisoners on Death Row and an execution in electric chair. The main villain was a sadistic prison guard.
  • In the Supernatural episode "The Executioner's Song" (S10, E14), Sam and Dean travel to West, Livingston, Texas, to investigate the disappearance of a serial killer from his locked cell on death row.


  • "Gotta Get a Message to You" by The Bee Gees (from back in The Sixties, before they got into disco) is about a man who is on death row for murdering his wife's lover. Even though she cheated on him, he still loves her, and wants to say goodbye to her.
  • Christian Contemporary artist Steve Taylor's song "Innocence Lost" tells of woman's visit to witness to death row inmates. Despite their cynicism, they're caught by the innocent look in her eyes, and one converts just before his execution.
    • As she kissed his forehead when the morning had dawned — He said softly to her, "I'll see you beyond"
  • "When You Leave That Way You Can Never Go Back," a country song made famous by Confederate Railroad in 1993. The ending of the song sees the main character a young drifter who had made multiple poor choices in his life sitting on death row for killing another man (who had walked in on him trying to have sex with his wife). Near the climax, the inmate shouts at the priest to go away when he comes to read him his last rites.
  • "Hallowed Be Thy Name" by Iron Maiden is from the point of view of a prisoner on death row trying to come to terms with his imminent demise. True to trope, the Priest does make an appearance.

     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.
  • Talwyn and her warbot buddies are captured and sentenced to death by Tachyon in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction. The Zoni inform Clank about this, who then tells Ratchet, with the latter not believing him at first.

     Western Animation  

  • The Simpsons:
    • "The Frying Game": Both Homer and Marge put on death row for the supposed murder of an elderly woman. It's funny in context.
    • "Hurricane Neddy": A cut scene shows a death row inmate about to be executed in the electric chair, when the roof is torn off the death chamber, sending in a gust of wind that causes the straps to be blown off and frees the criminal from the chair; he is literally blown into the air. He snickers at the disappointed prison staff, "So long, suckers!" as he is blown to freedom a very short-lived one as he is eventually hurled into high-voltage electric wires. ZAP!
  • Arthur imagines that Mr. Ratburn puts him on one of these (all the while giving him tons of math homework to do.)
  • On Rugrats, Chuckie envisions potty training as being led to the electric chair, with Tommy as the priest, a bunch of creepy looking adults in diapers as other prisoners, Phil and Lil as the officers that lead him down the hall, and Angelica as the executioner who flushes him down the toilet.