Capital punishment, cruel as many may see it, has the one privilege very few people get to enjoy – getting to choose your last meal. The last meal is supposed to give the convict some kind of peace, the type the rest of us don’t get to enjoy because any meal could be our last. In the US, most states grant the prisoners whatever they wish to have for their last meal. The pain that accompanies anyone’s last days arouses many reactions, and many convicts tend to express it in their choice of the final meal. While many choose regular meals, some choose nothing. Others, however, make some orders that are almost impossible to satisfy. From the man that chose dirt to ridiculous shopping lists for the last meal, these are the ten craziest last meal requests on record.
James Edward Smith
Smith was a taxi driver and a voodoo priest in Texas until he decided to rob the cashier’s office of an insurance company at the World Trade Center in 1983. He then shot Larry Rohus in the heart, the insurance agent that handed him the money. He was caught by Rohus’ colleagues who handed him over to the police on the day of the robbery. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection, a conviction he accepted gladly claiming he was tired of living in this world. He waived all appeals, but his mother insisted he was mentally ill and managed to get 5 to 4 votes in the supreme court in favor of allowing Smith to stay on death row.
The state decided to execute him anyway making him the first man in the US to be killed after receiving a reprieve from the supreme court. For his last meal, Smith asked for rhaeakunda dirt, which he allegedly wanted to use for a voodoo ritual. The state could not deliver the dirt so they gave him yogurt instead. He said that he himself did not kill anyone in his last statement and told the wardens that his ghost would haunt the prison for 300 years. Hope the yogurt appeased the ghost.
Philip workman’s death sentence remains one of the most controversial sentences in US history. He was arrested while robbing a Wendy’s outlet in Tennessee in 1981. He said he just needed the money for drugs because he was an addict at the time. The police, however, caught him in the act and in the gun battle that followed, Memphis Police Lt. Ronald Oliver was shot through the heart. There were conflicting ballistic reports which suggested that workman could not have fired the shot leading to widespread protests against his sentence. Many people believed that his colleague shot the officer in the confusion of the gun battle. His lawyer and family members insisted that he just stole to get money for drugs but he wasn’t a murderer, but the prosecutors held that he was a cop killer and finally, a guilty verdict was given.
Workman survived the execution three times, at one point, he was granted a stay on death row just 3 hours before his execution. In 2007, after staying on death row for 25 years, the state finally decided to execute him denying any orders for another stay. His last meal, however, turned into another spectacle. Workman ordered a vegetarian pizza be delivered to a homeless man in Tennessee, an order the prison officials refused to honor claiming the prison does not work for charity. In response, people ordered pizzas from all over the country to be delivered to homeless people in protest of the prison’s refusal of Workman’s generous request. He died a famous man with hundreds of protesters camping outside the prison the whole night until after his execution.
Ronnie Lee Gardener
The US Supreme court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, but the firing squad was not the execution of choice for any state or convict for that matter. Ronnie Gardner was, however, a very violent man first arrested for killing a bartender then put on death row for killing his lawyer in an attempted prison break. He was convicted before the state of Utah adopted lethal injection, so he was still allowed to choose the firing squad, and he did, becoming the third person to die by this method in the US.
Fellow prisoners claimed he chose the firing squad just to cause a mess so someone could clean after him. His last meal request was not any simple either. He ordered a steak served with apple pie, lobster tail and vanilla ice cream with a 7UP to wash it down. He also ordered the longest film he could think of to watch after his meal, the whole Lord Of The Rings trilogy. The prison guards allowed him to watch the long movie for the 48 hours before he was finally executed.
This man’s execution was full of many “lasts” until Henry Hargraves, the photographer of his last meal, called it a full stop. Victor Feguer was convicted of the murder of Dr. Edward Bartels in the summer of 1960 in Iowa. He, however, claimed that he killed the doctor’s actual killer and dumped his body in the Mississippi, but he was still put on death row because the body of the alleged culprit could not b found. At the time, only president J. F. Kennedy could overturn a death penalty and requests from lawyers, and the Iowa governor failed to convince him to pardon Feguer.
His execution was set in March 1963, making him the last man to be executed in the US before the supreme court banned it in 1972. He was also the last man executed in Iowa. For his last meal, Feguer just requested a single olive with the pit still on the fruit. It is believed that he wanted the olive to grow on his body after his burial. The olive seed was actually found in his pocket after his hanging and buried alongside his body. Hope it grew into a giant olive tree!
This time, the prison authorities received the last meal even the whole nation could not deliver. Odell Barnes Jr. was convicted of killing 44-year-old Helen Bass in her house in Wichita Falls, Texas. He shot her in the head using her own gun before stealing it and attempting to sell it with the help of his brother. He had also sexually assaulted Bass leaving his DNA behind which linked him to the crime scene a few days later leading to his conviction to death by lethal injection. His guilty verdict was also linked to earlier crimes related to breaking, robbery, and sexual assaults.
He attempted to appeal the death penalty many times, but it was rejected even at the supreme court. After a string of failed appeals, his execution was set for March 11, 2000. For his last meal, Barnes ordered Justice, Equality and world peace. It was impossible to deliver any of these, so the wardens served him the regular prison ration instead. His last meal request was ironic considering the violent nature of his crimes. Maybe he had changed after all!
While Victor Feguer was the “last man to die in the US death penalty’s old testament,” Timothy McVeigh was the first to die in the new. McVeigh is still remembered as America’s worst domestic terrorist for his role in the Oklahoma City bombings on April 19th, 1995. His execution also remains the most widely viewed execution because it was aired on TV countrywide. His infamous act in which he was protesting the misconduct of the US government led to the death of 168 people including 19 children.
He was actually arrested for a traffic violation before eyewitness descriptions made him the prime suspect of the bombing. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection on 168 counts of murder, a conviction that kept the whole country awake for days. His last meal request was also strange. He ordered 2 pints of mint chocolate ice cream, a request that left many shocked. Despite the anger and mixed reactions regarding the meal because of his lack of remorse, it was delivered to him. Well, at least he received the love he failed to offer to his victims.
This is probably the largest meal ever ordered by an inmate throughout Texas’ history of capital punishment. He was the 10th execution in Texas in 2011, a sentence that many people agreed was not just. Woods was allegedly present at the killing of two teenagers by his friend Rhodes. The state of Texas still sentenced him to death even after his friend confessed to the murder and no physical evidence linked Woods to the crime. The jury used a law that allows suspects to be killed if they are believed to have shown no regard for human life in a murder committed by others.
The sentence was however too cruel because Rhodes, the real murderer, was only sentenced to life in prison. With no more hope of winning an appeal, Woods surrendered to his fate and decided to accompany it with the largest last meal he could think of. He requested bacon, a large pizza with bacon, sausage, hamburger and pepperoni, hamburgers with chicken on a French toast, garlic bread sticks, fried chicken breasts, fried chicken steak, Pepsi, mountain dew, root beer, and sweet tea. Sounds like an impossible meal to finish but the prison delivered it anyway.
Thomas Grasso killed 87-year-old Hilda Johnson in Oklahoma on the Christmas eve of 1990 by strangling her using her own Christmas lights. He then proceeded to rob her of $12 and a cheap television set which he sold for $125 then fled to New York. In New York, he also strangled 81-year-old Leslie Holtz in his house. Grasso was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison in New York and then transferred to Oklahoma where he was sentenced to death by lethal injection. The two states then started fighting on where Grasso should serve a sentence first. Gov. Cuomo of New York at the time was against capital punishment, yet, Oklahoma really wanted to kill Grasso. New York was allowed to hold him for the 20-year sentence in a move that angered the residents even leading to Gov. Cuomo losing the gubernatorial election to Gov. Pataki who promised to deliver Grasso to Oklahoma to be executed.
In 1995, Oklahoma got their man as promised and as usual, gave him a chance to request a last meal. He ordered two dozen steamed mussels, a Burger King double cheeseburger, two dozen steamed clams with a lemon wedge, half a dozen barbecue spare ribs, half a pumpkin pie decorated with whipped cream and diced strawberries, two strawberry milkshakes, a mango and a can of Franco American SpaghettiOs with meatballs served at room temperature. The prison officials delivered the feast except they served spaghetti instead of SpaghettiOs. A small mistake it seemed but Grasso wouldn’t let it pass, his last words were “Please tell the media I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti, I want the press to know this.” Well, now we know!
Robert Conklin was arrested for killing attorney Robert Crooks in his house in Atlanta Georgia. The two were having a relationship, and a fight allegedly broke out after they smoked marijuana. Conklin Killed the attorney by inserting a screwdriver in his ear. He then dissected the body and disposed of it in garbage bags, but the blood trail and a book guide on how to dismember a body led to his arrest in 1984. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in April 1984.
He appealed all the way to the supreme court but the court held the death penalty leaving him to choose his last meal. He decided to eat the feast of a lifetime before his execution in 2005. He ordered a filet mignon wrapped with bacon, de-veined shrimp sautéed in garlic butter with lemon, sour cream, corn on the cob, French bread with butter, goat cheese, cantaloupe, apple pie, chives and real bacon bits, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, vanilla bean ice cream and iced tea.
Lawrence Russell Brewer
If you ever end up on a death row in a Texas prison, this man is the reason you will not be getting the privilege of the last meal. His abuse of last meal rights led to the abolishment of last meals in Texas in 2011. He was a white supremacist convicted of the racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. Brewer and his friends Offered a lift to Byrd, but instead of dropping him off, they took him to a logging road and tied him to the back of their pick-up truck before dragging him for 3 miles leading to his death. The brutality of the murder shocked the nation including president Obama. His death was hardly protested, even by anti-capital punishment lawyers.
For his last meal, he requested a feast of two chicken fried steaks, a pint of ice cream, fried Okra, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pound of barbecue and a slab of peanut butter with crushed peanuts. This was a tiring order to prepare but the prison delivered it anyway. Brewer, however, refused to eat any of the food claiming that he was not hungry. His actions angered the Texas senator who said Brewer’s victim was not given the chance to choose a last meal and that prison authorities should abolish the last meal offer and they did. He was a disgrace even to fellow murderers!