The general definition of ‘Death row’ is that it is a special section of a prison that houses inmates who are awaiting execution after being sentenced to death for the conviction of capital crimes. In the United States, after a person is found guilty of a capital offense, the judge will give the jury the option of imposing a death sentence or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It is then up to a jury to decide whether to give the death sentence; this usually has to be a unanimous decision. If the jury agrees on death, the defendant will remain on death row during the appeal and other procedures, which may continue for several years.
So, once an execution date is finalized, the condemned prisoner goes through a customary ritual preceding execution, that is their last meal. Various countries have various traditions in this regard. A “little glass of rum,” but no formal last meal, was granted to the condemned in historical France in the minutes before execution. But in many countries, the prisoner may, within reason, select what the last meal will be. I believe food preferences could speak a lot about a person’s character and personality. Death row choices are an extremely powerful example of that theory. So these are the 10 strangest last meals of death row inmates.
10. Victor Harry Feguer
Victor Feguer was tried and convicted of murder in federal court for his crimes. He was sentenced to death by hanging. Victor submitted an appeal, which was denied. At that point, only President John F. Kennedy could have commuted the death sentence. Iowa’s then governor, Harold Hughes, a death penalty opponent, along with Victor’s attorney, contacted Kennedy to request clemency for Victor. Kennedy thought that the crime was so brutal that he denied their request.
He was the last federal inmate executed in the United States before the moratorium on the death penalty following Furman v. Georgia criminal case. He was also the last person to be executed in Iowa. After Victor’s death, it would be nearly 40 years until the next federal execution — that of Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombing.
Victor was put to death at the age of 28. For his last meal, he requested a single olive with the pit in it. Photographer Henry Hargreaves captured this haunting image, quoting:
“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.”
9. Timothy McVeigh
Timothy McVeigh was the American terrorist behind the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people and 680 others were injured. The bombing was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11 attacks, and till date, it remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the United States. He was put to death in Indiana by lethal injection at the age of 33. He was sentenced to death for 168 counts of murder.
For his last meal, McVeigh requested two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
8. Angel Nieves Diaz
Angel Diaz was put to death in Florida by lethal injection at the age of 55. He was sentenced to death for murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery, though he maintained his innocence until his death.
Diaz declined a last meal, so he was served the regular prison meal, which he declined to eat as well.
7. Steven Michael Woods Jr.
Steven Woods was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of the capital murders of a young drug dealer and his wife. In 2004, Woods was fighting for prisoner rights. In late 2006, Woods was part of a hunger strike in Polunsky, to oppose death row inmates’ treatment. The fairness of Woods’ case and punishment was highly criticized by American philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian & political activist Noam Chomsky and human rights group Amnesty International. Woods’ criminal case was reported locally and internationally. His final motion for a stay was denied on September 2, 2011. 11 days later he was executed by lethal injection.
He had a crazy last meal request, which is as follows:
6. John Wayne Gacy
Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was put to death in Illinois by lethal injection at the age of 52. The Killer Clown was sentenced to death for the rape and 33 counts of murder. For his last meal, Gacy requested 12 fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe KFC, french fries, and a pound of strawberries.
One fun fact, prior to being convicted, Gacy managed three KFC outlets.
5. Ricky Ray Rector
Ricky Ray Rector was put to death in Arkansas by lethal injection at the age of 42. He was sentenced to death for two counts of murder. For his last meal, Rector requested and received a steak, fried chicken, cherry Kool-Aid, and pecan pie. Rector left the pie on the side of the tray, telling the corrections officers who came to take him to the execution chamber that he was “saving it for later.” The slice of pecan pie was not disposed of until Rector had been executed.
4. Robert Alton Harris
Robert Alton Harris was executed by gas chamber in 1992 for the 1978 murders of two teenage boys in San Diego. His execution was the first in the state of California since 1967.
For his last meal, he wanted: A 21-piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, two large Domino’s Pizzas, ice cream, a bag of jelly beans, a six-pack of Pepsi, and a pack of Camel cigarettes.
Robert’s execution is specifically remembered for his choice of final words:
“You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the grim reaper.”
This is a line from the 1991 film ‘Bill and Teds Bogus Journey.’
3. Ronnie Threadgill
Ronnie Threadgill was put to death in Texas by lethal injection at the age of 40. He was sentenced to death for murder.
For his last meal, Threadgill requested baked chicken, mashed potatoes with country gravy, vegetables, sweet peas, bread, tea, water, and punch. However, Texas abolished last meal choice in 2011, so Threadgill was just given the same meal as everyone else in his unit.
2. Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Lee Gardner received the death penalty for murder in 1985 and was executed by a firing squad by the state of Utah in 2010. Gardner’s attorney said that his client did not want to attract attention and simply preferred to die this way because, in 1985, Gardner himself famously quoted — “I’d prefer to die of old age, your honor, but if that ain’t possible, I’ll take the firing squad.”
For his last meal, Gardner requested steak, a lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream, and to eat it all while watching the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
1. Ted Bundy
Chris Hagen, Kenneth Misner, Officer Roseland, Richard Burton, and Rolf Miller; these were some of the names used by Theodore Robert Bundy. One of the most notorious serial killers in American history was put to death in Florida by electric chair at the age of 43. He was sentenced to death for rape, necrophilia, prison escape, and more than 35 counts of murder.
Bundy declined a special meal, so was given the traditional last meal: steak cooked medium-rare, eggs over easy, hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, milk, and juice.
So these were some of the last meals of death row prisoners and speak volumes about the nature of the inmate. And special thanks & credit to Henry Hargreaves for his captures. So which one you think was the strangest, let me know in the comments section.