Death row inmates’ last meals – from epic portions to plates of dirt

The tradition of a death row inmate's last meal has been observed since records began.

In medieval Europe, for example, it was thought that a hearty meal would make the doomed man less likely to come back and haunt his executioner after death.

The tradition has died out, to a large extent, because so many countries – virtually every European state and over half of African countries for example – have abolished the death penalty.

But in the US the death penalty persists in most states and, for that matter, so does a tradition on extravagant large meals.

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Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York who is an expert on capital punishment law said: "There's a drama associated with it. This is the Last Supper. Maybe it has that Christian connotation."

Here’s the Daily Star Online's rundown of some of the most memorable last meals.

Thomas J. Grasso

Grasso strangled Hilda Johnson with her own Christmas tree lights on December 24, 1990.

Six months later he he murdered 81-year old Leslie Holtz. In both cases he stole a small amount of money from his victim.

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Grasso's last meal was two dozen steamed mussels, two dozen steamed clams (with a wedge of lemon), a double cheeseburger from Burger King, a half-dozen barbecued spare ribs, two strawberry milkshakes, one-half of a pumpkin pie with whipped cream and diced strawberries.

Grasso also requested a can of Spaghetti-Os with meatballs although due to a mixup he was given fresh spaghetti instead.

Grasso’s last words were: "I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this."

John Wayne Gacy

The notorious ‘killer clown’ raped, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men, hiding the bodies of 26 of his victims in the crawl space of his home.

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Gacy was sentenced to death on March 13, 1980 for 12 of those killings. He spent 14 years on death row and was executed by lethal injection at Stateville Correctional Centre on May 10, 1994.

Gacy’s last meal, like many others, featured an order from KFC.

The entire feast consisted of 12 fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe KFC, french fries, and a pound of strawberries.

James Edward Smith

Smith shot Larry Rohus during a robbery at the International Trade Centre Building in Houston, Texas

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Rather than a grand feast, Smith requested a plate of dirt. He believed that eating a handful of earth before his death would complete a Voodoo ritual.

The staff at Huntsville Penitentiary told Smith they weren’t allowed to give him dirt and asked him to settle for a cup of yoghurt.

Furious at not getting his way, Smith vowed to haunt the prison for 300 years.

Gary Carl Simmons, Jr.

Simmons, who worked as a butcher, killed 21-year-old Jeffery Wolfe over a drug deal phone sour, then used his carving knives to dismember the body.

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Simmons’s truly epic and very cheese-heavy last meal consisted of one Pizza Hut Supreme Deep Dish pizza with double mushrooms, double onions, double jalapeño peppers, and double pepperoni; a second pizza with three cheeses, olives, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and Italian sausage; 10 eight-ounce packs of Parmesan cheese and 10 eight-ounce packs ranch dressing; 8 ounces of jalapeño nacho cheese; 4 ounces of sliced jalapeños; 2 twenty-ounce Cherry Cokes; 2 large strawberry shakes; two pints of strawberry ice cream; and one family-sized bag of Doritos nacho cheese flavour.

He is reported to have managed to eat around half of the colossal 29,000 calorie feast.

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Lawrence Russell Brewer

Brewer was convicted of the racially-motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. Together with two other white supremacists, Brewer chained the victim to the back of a car and dragged him to his death.

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Brewer requested an absolutely immense last meal, including two chicken fried steaks and sliced onions dripping in gravy; a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger with everything on the side; one cheese omelette with minced beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños; a large bowl of fried okra (ladyfingers) with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat and half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas with all the toppings; a Pizza Hut Meat Lovers pizza; a pint of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream; a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts on top, and three root beers.

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When the towering pile of grub was delivered to his cell, Brewer told prison wardens he wasn’t hungry and told them to throw the food away.

State Senator John Whitmire was so incensed at this insult that he asked Texas prison officials to end the 87-year-old tradition of giving last meals to condemned inmates, and sewers was the last "last meal" ever given in a Texas prison.

Victor Feguer

Feguer's seemingly random murder of a doctor he found through the Yellow Pages saw him sentenced to death by hanging in 1963.

For his last meal, Feguer requested a single olive with its stone still in.

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Photographer Henry Hargreaves who captured an image of Feguer’s meal for posterity, said: “It’s just such a polarising image. We think about last meals and is it something that’s going to be totally gluttonous, and then he just has a single olive.

“You know, it’s so simple, beautiful and kind of final. It’s like a full stop at the end of his life.”

  • Burger King
  • KFC

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