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Death Row

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"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. They may be able to request one last moment of personal indulgence or a special final meal.

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 or commuted to life). Both the cells and the walkway to the death chamber are collectively identified as Death Row.

The warden and executioner may wait by the phone a bit to see if the Governor will call to announce clemency or a stay of execution. Often accompanied by an Acquitted Too Late story. At the execution, the prison doctor is in attendance to confirm the death.

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

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bleach, during the Soul Society Arc, Rukia, who'd been sentenced to death for transferring her powers to a human, among other things, is transferred from her holding cell in the 6th Division to the Repentance Cell a few days before her execution, a special holding cell that has a view of the execution site.
  • In Death Note, L picks a death-row inmate by the name of Lind L. Tailor to bait Kira on national TV, as his stand-in. Mr. Tailor was arrested in secret, his story and picture not released to the public before his appearance on TV. (He gets a What the Hell, Hero? from Aizawa, and one from Soichiro in the live-action drama for doing so.) In the drama, he wants to do it again to see exactly how Kira can kill just by writing someone's name down. L's goal is also to get Light sent to one of these. For his part, Light views himself as an executioner god.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Dr. Psycho manages to fake his own execution and escape from death row by gaining access to his powers when his captors thought them blocked and sending an ectoplasmic copy of himself to the chair to be executed.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): After his Back Story sequence ends, Cal Lynch is seen in his cell awaiting execution for killing a pimp (in self defense). He is visited by a priest before the walk. The execution itself is faked so the Templars can plug him into the Animus.
  • Selma in Dancer in the Dark is wrongly convicted and given the death penalty. She is deeply distraught as she awaits her death. Although a sympathetic female prison guard named Brenda tries to comfort her, the other state officials show no feelings and are eager to see her executed. On her way to the gallows, Selma goes to hug the other men on death row while singing to them. However, on the gallows, she becomes terrified, so that she must be strapped to a collapse board. Her hysteria when the hood is placed over her face delays the execution.
  • The Life of David Gale: Texas claims it has never executed an innocent person. Will David Gale be the first?
  • In The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), the protagonist writes his story to sell to a pulp magazine while waiting on death row. Shortly before dying, his cell is opened and he goes outside the jailhouse, where he sees a UFO; he stays in jail nonetheless. Finally one morning he is walked to the electric chair and strapped in. He reflects on his fate, regretting none of his decisions and hoping to see Doris in the afterlife, both of them free of the mortal world's imperfections.
  • Monster's Ball: Hank and his son are both death row guards. Hank particularly gets into it with his son when Sonny screws up a condemned man's "last walk" by breaking down and puking in the middle of it.
  • Shot Caller: The high-ranking AB member Redwood ends up on death row after killing a guard on the Beast's orders to remind them of their power.
  • True Crime: Frank Beechum was sentenced to death and is now awaiting execution on death row. The movie shows his last day before the execution, with the visit of two priests, his wife, his daughter and a journalist.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Afterschool Special - 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 reinforce the message; the real Evans was put to death days after he gave the interview.
  • The I-Land: It turns out that the island characters are really death row inmates being tested in a virtual prison (the experiment specified this, since they were already "irredeemable").
  • A two-part Laverne & 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.
  • On the two-part Series Finale of Millennium (1996), Frank Black witnesses with some distaste the death row execution of one of his old targets, then returns to work at the FBI to find the same killer now has a copycat.
  • 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.
  • Oz: Killing another prisoner or a CO generally puts an inmate on death row, which is located in a small wing of Oz, and the characters there are generally used as a "B-plot" in Seasons 2 and later, with different inmates appearing until their execution (or transfer, in some cases, as a number are spared).
  • Prison Break: Lincoln Burrows is on Death Row after being framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother. His brother Michael Scofield allows himself to be incarcerated in another section of the same prison to mount an escape. The scheduled execution is at one point actually almost carried out before it's postponed by a call from the Governor when Lincoln is literally sitting in the chair.
  • 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.
  • Tales from the Crypt: "The Man Who Was Death" opens with Charlie Leadbetter sitting in his cell on death row awaiting execution, while his executioner Niles Talbot narrates how Charlie came to be there.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): Dennis Weaver is on death row, and he's trying to convince everyone it's All Just a Dream. Remade on The Twilight Zone (1985) with Peter Coyote in the Weaver role.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: As everyone knows, Texas is the death penalty capital of the United States, and this has occurred on many occasions in this show:
    • Season 2's "An Innocent Man" detailed an electrician named Woodrow Wilton who was framed for a murder. He was blackmailed into confessing, and Walker would soon seek out the real murderer, Leon Muncie, and save him at the literal last second before his execution.
    • "Skyjacked", also in Season 2, has Walker and Trivette escorting death row prisoner Lyle Guthrie back to Texas for his death sentence for killing a few Texas Rangers, just barely saving him from being executed in Ohio's Electric Chair.
    • Implied at the end of "In Harm's Way", the main villain, Thomas Openshaw, is sentenced to death after being convicted for his serial killing, raping and extortion spree.
    • Implied at the end of Season 9's "Deadly Situation", this likely becomes the fate of two Dirty Cops who killed a police officer after setting his partner up for their drug trafficking ring.
  • The X-Files:
    • Luther Lee Boggs from the episode "Beyond the Sea" is a mass murderer whose experience on death row triggered his psychic abilities. This time he's set to be executed once again and tries to gain a deal by saving two young people who were kidnapped. It doesn't work-he's executed.
    • Episode "The "List" featured prisoners on Death Row and an execution in the electric chair. The main villain was a sadistic prison guard.

  • "Gotta Get a Message to You" by The Bee Gees (from back in The '60s, 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.
  • "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.
  • 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"

    Video Games 
  • An early level of Duke Nukem 3D puts Duke in the electric chair (or rather an incredibly ineffectual one, being as all you have to do to escape is walk out), and he has to escape to stop the aliens.
  • Prison Architect gives you the option to build your own Death Row! But it's not to be taken lightly. Aside from having to research it first along with building an execution chamber and Death Row-only cells, prisoners on Death Row are rare. You can't deliberately take them in, either. You have to wait for them. And when you get them, executing them immediately is a terrible idea. You have to wait for their clemency chance to drop below 5% (10% if you have your Amoral Attorney research the reduced clemency perk) before you can safely execute them, because if someone is executed and later found innocent, it's one strike towards a Game Over (plus all the other Death Row inmates are immediately extracted from the premises).
  • 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.
  • Tourque in The Suffering is on death row for killing his family. Whether he's innocent or guilty depends on how the player chooses to act. If the player deliberately makes evil decisions Torque is guilty; if it's neutral it was an accident combined with his son killing himself and his brother. If it's good, Torque was indeed framed for the murder by assassins working for a crime lord called "The Colonel"

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, Dahlia Hawthorne, on death row for murder, manages to meet up with her mother, who's being held as an accomplice to another murder, to hatch a plan for Dahlia's spirit to be channeled after her execution, as part of a revenge plot against the main branch of the Fey family. It turns out that Godot was listening in on the meeting, resulting in his launching a plan to thwart the plot that, while well-intentioned, is tainted by his distrust of Phoenix and desire to redeem himself, which saves Maya at the cost of her mother Misty's life.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Simon Blackquill is a death row inmate who also serves as a prosecutor. The final trial takes place the day before his execution, and you need to clear his name before finding the true culprit behind the murder he was convicted of. In one of the Bad Endings, he is actually executed.
  • Ryoma Hoshi, one of the 16 participants in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony's killing game is a former death row inmate for slaughtering the mafia that killed his family and lover. It's a major reason behind his Death Seeker mentality.

    Web Animation 
  • Used on GoAnimate as the bad guy gets the death penalty for a punishment.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • "The Springfield Connection": Resident Butt-Monkey Hans Moleman is revealed to have somehow gotten on Death Row, with an unsympathetic Lovejoy giving him his last rites. The last we see of the old man is he's being led to the execution chamber, despondent that Homer ate his last meal.
    • "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!