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The Last Meals Project
July 28, 2011 4:39 PM   Subscribe

The Last Meals Project Every prisoner waiting to be executed is granted a last meal. Prisoners waiting to die choose their last meal for different reasons. Here's a list of exonerated death-row prisoners.
posted by modelenoir (45 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Surprisingly, not a double.
posted by phunniemee at 4:44 PM on July 28, 2011


I found this weirdly didactic in a way that distracted from a powerful conceit. The artist says, "The core of the issue lies not on the emotionally loaded (for or against) arguments, but to question, how is society really served by the death penalty?" I'm not sure that's the core of the project except as it intersperses facts about the system of death penalty executions (some of which I think are accurate only for certain states, such as "the identity of the executioner").

The design (is this Flash?) is also hard to navigate and, in its way, with the fading in and out, the control over what I see and when I see it, as didactic as the artist's statement.
posted by liketitanic at 4:46 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is that breakdown of executions by race correct? Because if it is, I am surprised.
posted by Splunge at 4:49 PM on July 28, 2011


Splunge, it's a breakdown of the racial identity of the victims.
posted by datawrangler at 4:51 PM on July 28, 2011


Oh shit, sorry.
posted by Splunge at 4:52 PM on July 28, 2011


Splunge, if we're looking at the same thing, that's not a breakdown of executions by race. That's a breakdown by race of the victims of the murderers.
posted by phunniemee at 4:52 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Final meal requests from prisoners in Texas.
posted by V4V at 4:54 PM on July 28, 2011


It's interesting seeing how the exonerated list grows in the last couple of decades. On one hand, it's good to see how the advances in DNA testing has freed many wrongly convicted; on the other hand, it also makes you realize how many more innocent people were likely executed before that. A couple of those exonerated on that list are a direct result of the Joyce Gilchrist scandal in Oklahoma. Oklahoma County was a pretty bleak venue for defense attorneys in the 20 year rule of Bob Macy and his "Black Magic."
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:01 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's amazing how much someone's last meal request reminds you of their essential humanity, regardless of their crimes. Also of how barbaric capital punishment really is. I found the juxtaposition of face and meal request quite powerful, even if the site was rather annoying in its execution and overall tone.
posted by Go Banana at 5:16 PM on July 28, 2011


I don't understand why people don't order dodo bird or snipe. If I were in that unfortunate position, I would have a lawyer defend my right to not be injected with poison till I finished my triceratops steak.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:31 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the site, the last meal may cost no more than $40 and must be sourced locally.

So, no Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence reprieve for you, hal_c_on!
posted by likeso at 5:37 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps this is a good spot to link photographer Lou Jones' project Final Exposure: Portraits from Death Row. It doesn't look like it's shown up on MeFi before.
Disclaimer: Lou is my second cousin, and he sells a book with these photographs and stories.
posted by spacewrench at 5:37 PM on July 28, 2011


The guy asks for a single olive, and it's bloody green?

Cruel and unusual indeed.
posted by pompomtom at 5:39 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ack. I meant A Town Like Alice reprieve. Jeez.
posted by likeso at 5:40 PM on July 28, 2011


THOMAS GRASSO, OKLAHOMA, 1995-- Mr. Grasso devoured a dozen steamed mussels, a Burger King double cheeseburger with mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, a can of Franco-American spaghetti with meatballs, a mango, half of a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and a strawberry milkshake. But, there was a problem. Mr. Grasso had been served spaghetti and meatballs, but had actually requested Spaghetti-O's. He did not take this slight lightly, his last words included this complaint, "I did not get my Spaghetti-O's. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this!"
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:40 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd ask my last meal to be....

a buffet.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on July 28, 2011


I'd ask my last meal to be....
a buffet.


Unlimited refills?
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:42 PM on July 28, 2011


I get really bad cravings for Spaghetti-O's w/meatballs sometimes. as I was reading that, StickyCarpet, I thought, Franco-American? Canned Spaghetti? WTF? Then I felt bad for the guy.
posted by bleep at 5:45 PM on July 28, 2011


...and then the inevitable book.
posted by Pants McCracky at 5:50 PM on July 28, 2011


Not to derail, but....
posted by kimota at 5:54 PM on July 28, 2011


Wouldn't it be awesome if Anonymous posted contact info and home addresses for state executioners?
posted by dunkadunc at 5:56 PM on July 28, 2011


I think I put this in the last Last Meals thread, too, but a comprehensive list of executed prisoners in the US that includes the last meal, last words, and ton of other information.
posted by Copronymus at 5:58 PM on July 28, 2011


Unlimited refills?

Yes. and open bar.
posted by jonmc at 6:04 PM on July 28, 2011


Wouldn't it be awesome if Anonymous posted contact info and home addresses for state executioners?

As well as abortion providers?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:12 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The very idea that we take some small, gallows humor entertainment value from the last meals of men who are about to be executed says quite a lot indeed about our current culture.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:24 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


dunkadunc: "Wouldn't it be awesome if Anonymous posted contact info and home addresses for state executioners?"

No, not really.
posted by lilnublet at 6:27 PM on July 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


digitalprimate, I'm not laughing. The bare fact that this "art project" is even possible is nauseating.

And I imagine that most of the responses are wisecrack-or-cry.
posted by likeso at 6:48 PM on July 28, 2011


The flash initially turned me off, but there was something a little hypnotic and haunting about watching each meal appear.
posted by JokeAndBiagio at 6:54 PM on July 28, 2011


This is ... not very well done. It's a badly designed site with annoying navigation that showcases really poor resolution photos overlaid with what amounts to shitty clip art of food. It ends with a plea to sign up to be notified when the book version of it comes out.

I think there's certainly room for an artist to do something meaningful with this topic, but this ain't it.
posted by tocts at 6:55 PM on July 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, this does rather smack of the whole "Blog to book deal" thing.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:00 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the subject of executioners, the last executioners in Britain Albert Pierrepoint and Harry Alan are reasonably well-known names. Wiki actually has a list. It seems that in some states the task of carrying out executions falls to the warden of the prison, rather than a volunteer.
posted by hoyland at 7:06 PM on July 28, 2011


Don't worry, according to the Wikipedia article the United States exonerates more prisoners than all other nations combined.
posted by swift at 7:33 PM on July 28, 2011


Fugu ... I mean, what the Hell, right?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:13 PM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is something truly weird and more than a little disturbing about publicizing the nature of last meals.

Even among death penalty advocates few promote public execution these days. There are just too many reasons not to do it publicly. Justice shouldn't function through instilling fear and terror in the wider public. Legally sanctioned killings shouldn't be a basis for public spectacle, entertainment and gossip. The families of those executed shouldn't be exposed to additional horrors on top of what they already suffer. There should be some basic humanity and decency shown to the condemned man or woman. At the end of the day, they're being killed, not tortured.

Yet all of those principles are at least partially undermined by recording and publishing last meals. On the fear front it lets the public know there's the possibility of a last meal being denied, or the wrong meal provided. On the entertainment and gossip front, people do talk and joke and create art about this stuff. We're doing it here and now. With respect to the families, that has distinct potential to expose them to public shame, humiliation and lasting pain. Finally, in terms of cruel and unusual punishment, it's as if the condemned person is told "You've been judged, you've been sentenced, you will be executed, and that will be the end of the matter. But hey.. better choose something interesting because we'll be telling everyone what you had and forever laughing our arses off it's a cheeseburger." It's not exactly torture, but it's definitely cruel.
posted by Ahab at 8:26 PM on July 28, 2011


According to the site, the last meal may cost no more than $40 and must be sourced locally.

Somewhere out there there was a prisoner who's originally from San Francisco, who was incarcerated far away, and who won't shut up about how you can't get a decent burrito in this prison.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:34 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"But hey.. better choose something interesting because we'll be telling everyone what you had and forever laughing our arses off it's a cheeseburger."
Or remind the reader that these were living people, because their last meal request is what I ate for dinner an hour ago.
posted by variella at 8:43 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps not unsurprisingly, no one orders a Happy Meal.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:47 PM on July 28, 2011


Anybody here curious about the victims' last meals?
posted by BlueHorse at 9:16 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Justice shouldn't function through instilling fear and terror in the wider public.

I agree, but I understand an important argument made by supporters of the death penalty is that it acts as a deterrent. Instilling fear and terror obviously goes a long way there.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:50 PM on July 28, 2011


man, text delivered by flash, with a pointless splash page. there is almost no better way of rendering content inaccessible. Terrible site.
posted by the noob at 10:10 PM on July 28, 2011


I was put off by the execution (sorry, pun intended) as well (it could have been done a lot more elegantly without flash, and that's the first flash splash page I've seen in years, thank god), but I found the actual content weirdly compelling.

I suppose, overthinking it, that the last-meals were chosen for their pathos and whatthefuckiness, but, yeah: sad and human.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:54 PM on July 28, 2011


Death Row. Skid Row. And Millionaire's Row. Three famous rows, all in the United States of America. And yet these three rows could be in different worlds. On Death Row, you get a really nice meal - but then you die. On Millionaire's Row, you get an even BETTER meal. Eventually you will die, but, yeah - you can freeze your head in a cryogenic chamber or something. But Skid Row's music will NEVER die. I don't know about the quality of their cuisine, though. The point is that these three different rows represent the growing gap between rich, poor and soft-cock hair-metal bands. It's time America was reunited with itself, and the barbaric practice of dividing people up into different rows and columns made illegal.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:37 AM on July 29, 2011


It's time America was reunited with itself, and the barbaric practice of dividing people up into different rows and columns made illegal.

There may be some benefit in a fifth column.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:44 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a site that's pretty clearly anti-death penalty (despite its protestations of neutrality), starting off their roster with Ted Bundy seems like a bad choice.
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:27 PM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jess the Mess: Agreed. Probably not the most persuasive figure to start with in a discussion with someone advocating for the death penalty, but the discussion usually comes down to "Well, what about [insert horrible murderer here]?", so it's gonna be brought up at some point. That's always a good point to draw a line and say "Yeah, even [horrible murderer] should not be killed for their crimes."

The protestations of neutrality should have just been left out. The lady doth protest too much kind of thing.
posted by modelenoir at 10:53 AM on July 30, 2011


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