To see if culture informs last words, Eaton read every final death-row statement available between 2000 to 2011, and sorted each by region of the United States—into Southern and non-Southern categories to differentiate between the cultural differences. Then, she searched for apologetic content in every statement. The subject pool was small—299 Southerners and 60 non-Southerners. But then, only 679 people were executed in the United States during that time. This is as big of a test as Eaton could run.
Southern offenders were two times more likely to apologize for their crimes in their final words, Eaton found. But there’s a caveat. “This does not necessarily mean that southerners were more remorseful, however,” her paper concludes. “The analysis revealed that they were not more likely than non-southerners to express remorse, defined as the extent to which they accepted responsibility, asked for forgiveness, expressed regret, and appeared to be earnest.”