Vote: Publish pending major changes
There is much to like about this manuscript. It’s well-researched and brings a fresh perspective to a topic that is not very diverse. Research on last statements is very Texas-centric, and it’s nice to see an attempt to expand this research to a different country and period.
That being said, I think the English data and interpretation stand on their own - I don’t think the direct comparison with Vollum and Longmire’s Texas findings really adds to the paper for a few reasons. First, as the authors note, it’s not a direct comparison – the Texas executions are private, while the English ones are public; the Texas data only includes their actual final words, while the English data seems to include anything they said after they were condemned; the English prisoners were strongly encouraged to admit to and take responsibility for their crimes, while the Texas prisoners are not. Also, if I understand it correctly, these researchers did not code the Texas data themselves. Although the coding themes are fairly straightforward, they can't be compared if two different labs coded them.
Given how different the context is between the English and Texas executions, I’m not sure anything is gained by comparing them or even using the same themes. I would rather see a fresh English data analysis, preferably with no predetermined themes. Comparisons with the Texas data could be made in the Discussion section.
Given the challenges of a direct comparison, I think this would make the paper stronger.