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The Last Word
Director, Jesse Quackenbush
Narrator, Tom Kane
Composer, Peter Davison
90 Minutes
The inevitable story of failure which every American anticipated but hoped would never have to be told. This documentary takes the "Innocent Man on Texas Death Row" tale to a dark corner feared by all - - proving that an innocent man has been executed by the State.
A clash between good and evil strikes up on the High Plains of Texas when Johnny Frank Garrett, a 17 year old retarded boy is arrested, convicted and ultimately executed for the Halloween night rape, mutilation and murder of Sister Tadea Benz. The 76 year old nun was attacked while she slept in her room at the St. Francis Convent in Amarillo, Texas. Garrett claimed his innocence from the time of his arrest until his dying breath. Sixteen years after Garrett's execution new evidence rose up from the cold case grave of the Amarillo Police Department proving they executed the wrong man!
During interviews with key players the case of Johnny Frank Garrett unfolds like a recipe for executing the innocent. A death penalty obsessed District Attorney and his lap-dog medical examiner, ladder climbing cops, bloodthirsty media, enraged and fearful jurors, incompetent defense lawyers, politicized judges, witchhunting religious zealots and an ironfisted Governor with national ambitions meld together as perfect ingredients for a plate of government sponsored murder.
In Garrett's final statement he professed his innocence one last time but did so in a voice driven by hate and vengeance. In his chilling conclusion Garrett promised those responsible for his murder that someday he would have the last word and they would pay for what they had done. For most of Garrett's enemies "someday" happened long ago.
Regardless of faith, for or against the death penalty, liberal or conservative The Last Word compels viewers to feel not only the collective pain our societal conscience suffers for executing the innocent but also the individual fear of not knowing what margins of error our judges, jurors and executioners will find acceptable tomorrow.