“Death row” is the literal term used to describe the state of awaiting execution. The United States, which is the only Western country that still applies the death penalty as capital punishment, houses inmates awaiting their execution after being sentenced.
Statistically, about 30% in all 50 states authorize this penalty. By 2016, 16 U.S. states re-evaluated the death penalty due to questions about the death penalty itself. The use of lethal injection, as a method of execution, is highly controversial to this day.
In the U.S., when the convict is sentenced to death, he/she will remain on death row during the appeal procedures. The procedure can take years to finalize. However, in the deep South, the death penalty can become something of a monster entirely on its own. Alabama is the only state where a judge can override the jury and put in place the death penalty. The use of capital punishment in the United States still goes to show the complexities and cruelties of not only man, but society.
Henry Hargreaves, a reputable food photographer, exhibited a collection of last meals eaten by the most infamous convicts on death row. Hargreaves’ “No Seconds” series of haunting food images shows how powerful certain food preferences can be. Through the images, the collection explores the humanistic quality not only in prison, but in general. These last captured choices exemplify the heart of this theory. From the purely simple to the most extravagant, each image matches their source in the most fascinating way. Below, are just 15 Famous Last Meals On Death Row.
15. One Olive
Victor Feguer, a man convicted of kidnapping and murder, was sentenced to death by hanging in the state of Iowa. At the age of 28, he was the last man put to death in the state of Iowa. To make the long story short, Feguer arrived in Iowa during the ’60s and killed a doctor (Dr. Bartels) in order to get drugs. Since state lines were involved, Feguer was charged on the federal level. At the time, John F. Kennedy was the only one who could reduce the penalty. However, it was denied. In Hargreaves’ “No Seconds” collection of inmate last meals, Feguer’s simple request of a single olive with the pit inside is not only a personal favorite of the photographer’s, but he’s quoted as saying, “It’s just such a polarizing 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.”
14. Two Pints Please
Timothy McVeigh was an American terrorist better known as the man responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran who sought out to put revenge on the federal government for its handling of the Waco siege in 1993, which ended in 76 people dead. McVeigh was hoping to inspire the people to revolt against the federal government. Unfortunately, his terroristic act failed to inspire and he was convicted of 11 federal offenses. He was sentenced to death but his execution was carried out considerably shorter than most convicts. For the most part, convicts on death row in the United States can spend an average of 15 years waiting for their execution. Just only after four years of his conviction, McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. As his final meal, he requested to have two whole pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
13. Old-Fashioned Ricky Ray
Ricky Ray Rector’s road down death row all began on the 21st of March, in 1981. He and some friends went down to ‘Tommy’s Old-Fashioned Home-Style Restaurant’. When one friend couldn’t pay the cover-charge, Rector got agitated and pulled out a pistol. Rector fired, killed a man, then flew the scene of the crime. Rector agreed to surrender to an officer he’d known since childhood. The officer came by and as he turned away from Rector, Ricky Ray drew and fired two shots into Officer Martin. Then, Rector put the gun to his own head and fired. Rector survived but his frontal lobe was destroyed. When put on trial, his attorneys argued that he was intellectually impaired. However, it was ruled that Rector was competent to stand trial. Rector was convicted and sentenced to death. As his final meal, Ray requested steak, fried chicken, cherry Kool-Aid, and a piece of pecan pie. He left the pecan pie behind, telling one guard he was “saving it for later.”
12. Eating In Hominy
Stephen Anderson, at the age of 49, was put to death in California by lethal injection. Anderson was sentenced to death for several things—burglary, inmate assault, seven counts of murder, and escaping from prison. However, his main conviction was for the burglarizing and the murder, of 81-year-old retired piano teacher, Elizabeth Lyman. In 1980, Anderson was 26 and decided to burglarize Elizabeth Lyman’s house in California. Anderson cut Lyman’s telephone line, broke into her home, and rummaged the house for occupants. When Anderson discovered Lyman’s bedroom, Lyman awoke and screamed. He soon shot her in the face from close range. He then retrieved the bullet that killed her, ransacked her house for money (finding less than $100), and then prepared himself a meal in the victim’s kitchen. For his last meal, Anderson ate two grilled cheese sandwiches, a pint of cottage cheese, a hominy corn mixture, a slice of peach pie, some chocolate chip ice cream, and radishes.
11. I Want Nothing
Nieves Díaz’ case was controversial because he pleaded innocent to the last day. The backstory is that he and two friends robbed a strip club in Florida. During the robbery, the manager was shot dead, but there was no one to witnesses the incident. Díaz’ girlfriend at the time alerted the police about his involvement. He was tried and convicted, but still claiming his innocence. Nieves Díaz was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, attempted robbery, and possession of a firearm. The controversy is when a fellow inmate testified that Díaz confessed in his cell that he was guilty, despite Díaz not being able to speak English and Gajus not knowing Spanish. Gajus even confessed that he lied because he was left out of an escape attempt with Nieves, but it was too late. In 2006, Nieves Díaz was put to death by lethal injection in Florida. He refused a last meal and refused the prison meal as well.
10. “You Shall Not Pass!”
Ronnie Lee Gardner, an American criminal who received the death penalty by firing squad in 1985, killed a man during a robbery in Salt Lake City, Utah. When he was being moved to a court hearing, Gardner fatally shot an attorney in an attempt to escape. He was convicted on two counts of murder, got sentenced to life imprisonment, and received the death penalty. Gardner’s death penalty acquired some media attention, because, at this time, it’s been about 14 years since the U.S. carried out a punishment in this fashion. Gardner personally requested this execution based on his religious beliefs. He was 49. His other request was his last meal. Gardner requested a steak paired with a lobster tail, a slice of apple pie, and some vanilla ice cream. He also requested the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy, so he could watch the film while eating his hefty last meal.
9. A Sadistic Meal
Ted Bundy, probably one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, was sentenced to death for the r*pe of his victims, along with necrophilia, prison escape, and more than 35 counts of murder. Many regarded Bundy as a handsome and charismatic individual who obviously exploited these traits to earn his victim’s trust. He’d meet people in public and then kill them in secluded locations. Bundy would revisit the scenes of his crimes, and then perform s*xual acts with the victim’s decomposing bodies. Bundy died by electric chair in 1989. Bundy once said about himself that he was “the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” Even his attorney, Polly Nelson, wrote that Bundy “was the very definition of heartless evil.” Bundy declined a catered meal but was given the prison’s last meal—steak cooked medium-rare, eggs over easy, hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, milk, and juice.
8. Shocked Seafood
Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis was an American mass murderer who was executed in 1982 for the murder of Nancy Weiler, who happened to be three months pregnant at the time. Reporters announced that Weiler was beaten beyond the point of recognition. Her face and head were hit by Davis’ .357 Magnum over 25 times. Davis was also convicted of killing Weiler’s two daughters—Kristina (9) and Katherine (5). Both girls were shot and Katherine’s skull was bashed in. His electric execution drew nationwide attention after photos were published of his electrocution of him bleeding from the nose. In addition, Davis suffered burns to his head, leg, and groin area. This led to arguments that the electric chair was a cruel punishment. So, after Davis, all executions were done by lethal injection. Davis’ last meal consisted of a lobster tail, fried potatoes, half a pound of fried shrimp, six ounces of fried clams, half a loaf of garlic bread, and 32 ounces of root beer.
7. Worth The Money
Teresa Lewis was put to death in Virginia by lethal injection at the age of 41. She was sentenced to death for the murder and conspiracy of her husband and her stepson. She was the first female inmate to die by injection in Virginia. In 2002, Lewis met 21-year-old Matthew Shallenberger and 19-year-old Rodney Fuller at a Wal-Mart, and began a s*xual relationship with both while still married. Lewis hatched and lead a plan, with the aid of Shallenberger and Fuller, to kill her husband and his son for insurance money. Shallenberger and Fuller entered the Lewis’ trailer at night, as Lewis waited in the kitchen for them. Shallenberger shot the sleeping husband several times while Fuller went and shot Charles in his bedroom. All three were caught and Lewis received the death penalty. For her last meal, Lewis requested fried chicken, peas with butter, apple pie, and a Dr. Pepper.
6. Sharing A Meal
Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian-born American anarchists who were convicted of murdering a man during 1920’s. It seemed that the murder took place during an armed robbery in Massachusetts. They were both executed by the electric chair. Even though Sacco and Vanzetti were sentenced on first-degree murder charges, they were sentenced to death by the judge. A series of appeals followed because during the case, there were recanted testimonies, conflicting evidence, prejudice statements, and a confession by an alleged participant. Unfortunately, the appeals were denied by the trial judge and denied by the Massachusetts State. In 1977, the governor of Massachusetts issued a statement saying that the two men have been unfairly tried and convicted. The case has been open ever since. As far as the two men’s last meals, Sacco and Vanzetti requested and dined on some soup, a cup of tea, a plate of meat, and some toast.
5. Your Request Has Been Denied
Ronnie Threadgill was 40 and the third executed convict in Texas in 2013. He received the lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his last appeal. Threadgill failed to argue that he had deficient legal help during his 2002 murder case. He was sentenced for the murder of Dexter McDonald, a 17-year-old, during a carjacking outside of a club. His last words were, “To my loved ones and my dear friends, I love y’all and appreciate y’all for being there . . . . I am going to a better place. To all the guys back on the row, keep your heads up, keep fighting. I’m ready. Let’s go.” For his last meal, Threadgill requested some mashed potatoes, baked chicken, some vegetables with sweet peas, bread, water, punch, and tea. Unfortunately, the state of Texas abolished last meal choices back in 2011, so Threadgill was given the same meal given in his unit.
4. One Man And Two Peanut Butter Cups
Christopher Eugene Brooks was executed in Alabama for the 1992 murder of a woman, after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his stay of execution. Brooks was the 57th inmate executed in the state of Alabama, since executions resumed in 1983, and the first person executed in Alabama since 2013. His final words were, “I hope this brings closure to everybody…Godsend… I will take you with me in my heart… I’ll see you soon. Bye. I love y’all.” Brooks maintained his innocence until the end. On his last day, Brooks was given breakfast, but he didn’t eat it. After visiting with friends, lawyers, and his spiritual advisor, he requested his last meal. Brooks’ request was simple and not as extravagant as other meals. He wanted two peanut butter cups and a can of Dr. Pepper to wash it all down with. This was his last meal and he did eat all of it.
3. A Clown’s Meal
For those who don’t know who John Wayne Gacy was, let me just give you some insight into a true monster clown. Gacy was responsible for not only r*pe, but also 33 counts of murder. Gacy was an American serial killer who s*xually assaulted, tortured, and murdered his victims—teenage boys and young men during the ’70s in Illinois. He would lure his victims, strangle them, and then bury their bodies in his property. He was also well-known to dress up as “Pogo the Clown” because it made him “regress into childhood.” Gacy was sentenced to be put to death through lethal injection. He was 52 at the time of his death. For his last meal, Gacy requested exactly 12 fried shrimps, a pile of french fries, one pound of strawberries, and interestingly enough, a bucket of KFC’s original recipe fried chicken. The last request is interesting because before Gacy went on his violent rampage, he managed a few KFC restaurants.
2. I’ll Have Everything
Earl Forrest died at the age of 66 and it was the first execution in the state of Missouri in 2016. According to evidence, Forrest was charged with the killing of three people and wounding two others. It all went down when Forrest went to one victim’s house, demanding the victim to buy a mobile home and a lawn mower in exchange for introducing the victim to a methamphetamine dealer. When the victim refused, Forrest fatally shot the victim in the face during the confrontation, then shot another victim six times, killing both instantly. Forrest then shot and killed a deputy during a shootout and wounded two others, including his then girlfriend. Forrest was killed via lethal injection for his crimes. As his last meal, he requested quite a meal. He ordered a side of pasta, steak, some sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, fruit, chocolate cake, and a glass of milk.
1. A Hearty Meal For The Heartless
After a grueling four hours going over the last appeal, 53-year-old Oscar Ray Bolin Jr. was executed via lethal injection in the state of Florida in 2016. He spent 23 years on death row. Bolin was a serial killer who was convicted of murdering three women back in the 80’s. His half-brother was a key witness and was the key testimony against Bolin. Bolin’s half-brother witnessed him brutally beating a woman wrapped up in a sheet. Bolin had no last words to say at the time of his execution. However, he did have a last meal. Bolin requested a hearty meal that encompassed a medium-rare rib-eye steak, paired with a baked potato with butter and sour cream. He also made requests for a side salad made with some iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumbers, and sliced tomatoes. In addition, Bolin made a request for garlic bread, a can of Coca-Cola, and lemon meringue pie.