By our last count, about two weeks ago, the state of Texas had just executed its 499th death-row inmate since 1982, when the state reinstated capitol punishment. It was for some an occassion to silently skim the Texas State Department of Criminal Justice's Death Row Information page. The state's official death-row death roll lays bare some of the most hauntingly raw data you'll ever come across--scrolling through the names, faces, and charges, you can't help but feel, well, guilty--and for that it's garnered increasing notoriety. That it also details last words has lead some to call it the most hopeful place on the internet.
There wasn't much to say at No. 499, and there still isn't much to say now. Only that days later, on June 26, the 500th death row inmate in Texas was put to death. The significance is twofold: Kimberly McCarthy, 52, was both No. 500. and the first woman executed in the Lone Star State. It was apparently enough find Joe Nudell grappling over the meticulous mess that is Texas death roll data set. There had to be threads in there, trends (or non trends) to consider. If he could extract them, how would (should?) he go about visualizing bits and pieces of what continues to stoke a heavy and heated debate?
What he came up with is Texecution. It's fittingly stark, almost torturously so, in its interactive presentation of some of the more revealing pockets of Texas execution information, which Nudell scraped from the state's data set (which you can grab here) before filtering through some basic code. Texecution is optimized to filter records for only those inmates with bios (119 / 500) or for all inmates (500 / 500).
A workcloud for the most frequently used last words across all executions, for example, floar in a word cloud: Know, Love, Family, Sorry. Inmates whose biographies were recorded did not make it past the grade 12.
You get the idea.
Texecution cannot be embedded, and it'd otherwise be worth including a ferw screengrabs here if I couldn't help but defer to Nudell's decidedly limited approach, which he held to for fear overstepping his bounds--or obscuring what played out behind the numbers.
"I did not want to cheapen any of the events that underlie it," he wrote.