Haunted or hungry, guilty or innocent, what does a last meal say about the convicted? Is it a way to make a not-so-subtle statement to the world they’re departing? Does it reflect who the killer really is? Or perhaps it’s a statement on what he or she savors?
In a recent study of 247 individuals executed in the United States, Drs. Brian Wansink and Kevin Kniffin of Cornell University examined the subject. They concluded that the last meal might be a way for the doomed to make a statement about guilt. People who denied guilt were almost three times more likely to refuse a last meal. Prisoners “at peace” with their fate asked for 34% more calories of food – an average of 2,756 calories. Only 20% chose to eat nothing. The researchers suggested that the last meal offers insights into “self-perceived or self-proclaimed innocence.”
What do you think? Consider these seven bizarre last meals and what each said about the death row inmate who requested it.
Victor Feguer was convicted of kidnapping and murder. He was executed by hanging in a federal prison at Fort Madison, Iowa, 1963. Feguer was buried in a new suit with the olive pit from his last meal on Death Row.
Gerald Lee Mitchell was convicted of 2 murders with a sawed-off shotgun when he was only 17 years old in 1985. He was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas, 2001, when he was 33 years old. His only request was a bag of Jolly Ranchers.
Margie Velma Barfield, Death Row Granny, was a serial killer who murdered 5-7 people by poisoning (arsenic). She was the first woman to be executed since 1962, the first since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1976, and the first woman executed by lethal injection. This 52-year old grandmother was executed in North Carolina, 1984, after a last meal of Cheese Doodles.
Jackie Barron Wilson kidnapped, raped, and murdered (with a car) a 5-year little girl. He had been a friend of the family and a live-in babysitter. Wilson was executed by lethal injection in Texas, 2006. His last meal was one of the most bizarre – a whole onion, chewing gum, and Coca Cola.
Ricky Ray Rector shot and killed a civilian and a police officer in 1981. Realizing there was no way out, Rector turned the gun on himself. He pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head. Ironically, he survived with brain damage and an IQ of less than 70. He was executed in Arkansas, 1992, by lethal injection. There was a lot of controversy over executing someone who was functionally retarded. Then-Governor Bill Clinton flew home, mid-campaign, to affirm that the execution would take place as scheduled. Rector requested steak, fried chicken, cherry cool aid, and a slice of pecan pie for his last meal. It’s been said that his decision to save the pecan pie “for later” was indicative of his IQ.
Thomas J. Grasso was convicted of two murders when he was 29 years old, both in their 80s. He strangled an 87-year old woman with her own Christmas tree lights on Christmas Eve, 1990. Grasso was executed by lethal injection in Oklahoma, 1995. His last meal was steamed clams and mussels, Burger King double cheeseburger, barbecue spare ribs, 2 strawberry milkshakes, half a pumpkin pie and a can of Spaghetti-O’s. His last comment was, I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.