true crime

A harrowing account of how a man on death row spent the final hours of his life.

He had just minutes to live, but as witnesses filed into the execution chamber viewing room at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, JW Ledford Jr grinned.

A short time later the 45-year-old convicted murderer uttered his final statement.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate,” he said, quoting the classic prison drama Cool Hand Luke, reports Associated Press. “Some men you just can’t reach… I am not the failure. You are the failure to communicate.”

Still smiling, he added, “You can kiss my white trash ass.”

georgia execution ledford jr
J.W. Ledford Jr. Image: Georgia Department of Corrections.

Ledford Jnr died by lethal injection in the early hours of Wednesday morning, more than 25 years after he murdered his elderly neighbour, Dr Harry Johnston.


The then-20-year-old stabbed the doctor in the neck, nearly decapitating him, then went to the victim's home where he tied up, threatened and robbed the man's wife.

As Ledford Jr's execution approached, his legal claimed he felt remorse, they even used his traumatic, abuse-filled childhood and low IQ in a bid for clemency. They then argued that his chronic nerve pain would make lethal injection inhumane, that he should face the firing squad instead.

Both were shot down earlier this week.

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And so Ledford Jr sat down to his last meal. All 5,500 calories of it.

As the Georgia Department of Corrections revealed on Thursday, the inmate had placed an order for: filet mignon wrapped in bacon with pepper jack cheese, large french fries, 10 chicken tenders with sauce, a fried pork chop, a bloomin' onion (a whole onion, battered and deep-fried), pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, sherbet and a Sprite.

After spending more than half his short life behind bars, Ledford Jr was scheduled to die there at 7pm Tuesday.

An execution chamber at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison.

A last-ditch appeal stalled proceedings, as his lawyers desperately claimed that it was wrong for him to be sentenced to death under the age of 21.

But at 1:17am on May 17 the witnesses, the ones he insulted with glee just minutes before, watched as he took his last breath.

It was the first execution in Georgia for 2017, following nine last year.

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