Charles Becker

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In 1913 the court of appeals overturned the verdict, calling it “shockingly against the weight of evidence.” Becker said, “This proves that no frame-up can go to a finish.” But a second trial, fiercely prosecuted by Whitman, upheld the first verdict.

Becker spent his time reading aloud to his fellow prisoners and writing awkward, grandiloquent letters to his wife, whom he called “Queen of my heart” and whose belief in his innocence never wavered. As the execution day drew close, his only hope lay in an appeal to the governor—Charles Whitman, newly elected largely on the strength of his prosecution of Becker. Whitman refused the plea.

 

Becker devoted his last day on earth to refuting a final charee of Whitman’s. The governor—who had his eye on the Presidency now—announced that the condemned man also had murdered his first wife. Enrasred. Becker insisted that it was a matter of record that she had died of tuberculosis and called the governor’s sally “cruelty almost inconceivable.” While he fretted over his reply, guards shaved part of his head and outfitted him in a black cotton suit with no metal buttons.

He went into the death chamber at five the next morning, saying, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” His powerful body burst one of the straps, and he thrashed in the chair for nine ghastly minutes before the doctors could pronounce him dead.

He had wanted to make a short speech to the witnesses; that had been forbidden, but copies of his statement were later handed out to the press. “I proclaim my absolute innocence of the foul crime,” it read, and went on to “declare to the world that I am proud to have been the husband of the purest, noblest woman that ever lived, Helen Becker. This acknowledgment is the only legacy I can leave her.”

She had the last word. On the coffin, she affixed a handsomely engraved silver plate:

Charles Becker

Murdered July 30,1915

By Governor Whitman