Last Meals.
December 11, 2004 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Although the Texas Department of Criminal Justice used to publicly post the last meal requests of Texas death row inmates, it has since taken down its list. The Memory Hole has preserved much of the list. Brian Price, a former inmate in Hunstville, Texas, where the state's executions are carried out, recounts his experience preparing last meals. Dead Man Eating continues to chronicle last meals.

The music in the flash animation, but the way, is off of John Fahey's "The Legend of Blind Joe Death," and Amazon is distributing several mp3s.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:11 PM on December 11, 2004

The study from Duke University referenced in the flash is called "The Costs of Processing Murder Cases in North Carolina." [pdf]
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:14 PM on December 11, 2004

My wife, who is a gourmet cook (honestly), told me that if she had to request a last meal, death-row style, she'd ask for a hamburger.

I still don't get it.

monuh_bosatsu, Fahey was a largely unrecognized freaking genius...his Christmas Guitar Vol. 1 is some of the absolutely most beautifuly holiday music I have ever heard.
posted by 1016 at 2:22 PM on December 11, 2004

Do you get to eat until you finish? Cause the guy who asked for the bag of Jolly Ranchers probably got an extra few days of life out of that.
posted by graventy at 2:28 PM on December 11, 2004

Great post.
posted by sophie at 3:00 PM on December 11, 2004

Canadian beef and freedom fries with Chateau Latour 2045, please.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:15 PM on December 11, 2004

Excellent post! Thanks for the info on Fahey, I'm definately going out to get one of his cd's.
posted by codeofconduct at 4:19 PM on December 11, 2004

Really good post, thanks.
posted by livii at 4:48 PM on December 11, 2004

Neat stuff. In that situation, I'd probably pick something comfy/homey/hamburgery over anything fancy. And I'm assuming they don't get to pick alcohol, cuz I'd want to be as loaded as possible.
posted by bardic at 5:30 PM on December 11, 2004

Bardic, the list of last meal requests on the Memory Hole site answers your question:
*Venison steak, baked potato, Lite beer & Camel cigarettes (Alcohol & tobacco prohibited by TDCJ policy)
And NO BUBBLE GUM neither!
*Barbecue chicken, refried beans, brown rice, sweet tea and bubble gum (bubble gum is not permitted under TDCJ regulations)

Otherwise, many of the last requests are interesting...
Some seemed to misunderstand the question:
*Justice, Equality, World Peace
*God's saving grace, love, truth, peace and freedom
*Justice, Temperance, with Mercy

Some were boring
*1 apple, 1 orange, 1 banana, coconut, and peaches
*One flour tortilla and water
*Plain cheese sandwich
*1 jar of dill pickles

Some were finicky:
*Heaping portion of lettuce, a sliced tomato, a sliced cucumber, four celery stalks, four sticks of American or Cheddar cheese, two bananas and two cold half pints of milk. Asked that all vegetables be washed prior to serving. Also asked that the cheese sticks be clean.
*Grilled steak, baked potato, any vegetable except squash or okra, any dessert and anything to drink except punch or milk

Some were noble:
*None. Last minute he decided to eat a hamburger at his Mother's request.
*Same meal that is served to all other offenders in the main dining room
*Asked that final meal be provided to a homeless person

And this guy was just a badass:
*One pot of coffee
posted by banishedimmortal at 6:56 PM on December 11, 2004

And then there was the fellow, Ricky Rector, put to death in Arkansas despite a neuropsychological assessment that diagnosed a host of cognitive disabilities which should have signalled that he was not fit to stand trial in the first place. Then governor, Clinton took time off from campaigning -- this was 1992 -- and returned home to Little Rock just to emcee the event. After the execution the warden discovered that Ricky had saved his pecan pie for afterwards. Probably the most unique idea ever for a last meal: save it for later.
posted by derangedlarid at 7:43 PM on December 11, 2004

Fried mullet, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, and a big ol' bottle of root beer for me.

I wonder if the inmates were made aware that their requests would be recorded.

23skidoo, the Brian Price article says the inmates in his prison could receive only what was available in the kitchen -- some meals had substitutions or were scaled down -- though he did his best to honor the request.
posted by Marit at 8:21 PM on December 11, 2004

I don't know how I feel about the death penalty. I have grave concerns about how its (ahem) execution. On the other hand, I have misgivings about how this kind of thing is presented, without any consideration of the victims. . . which is why I really like the memory hole site. It links to descriptions of the crimes that the men committed.

A quick rundown of the men featured:

Clifton Russell -- abducted Hubert Tobey, Abilene air traffic controller from a gas station. Slit his throat, bashed head in. Apprehended while driving victim’s blood-spattered car.
John Elliott -- gang-raped 18-year-old girl, then beat her to death with a motorcycle chain. On probation for murder and burglary at the time of the crime.
Charles Rumbaugh -- murdered Michael Fiorillo during a jewelry store robbery. Also threatened to kill a judge and attacked a deputy U.S. marshal in a courtroom.
Stanley Baker -- Shot Wayne Walters, 44, in the head with a shotgun at point-blank range during the robbery of an adult video store that netted $40. Arrested in victim’s truck with the shotgun and covered with blood.
David Castillo -- Stabbed Clarencio Champion to death during the robbery of a liquor store.
Delbert Teague -- Shot Thomas Cox in the head after robbing him and his date. Also shot two other men during the same incident. Abducted Cox’s date and sexually assaulted her for over 24 hours.
Carl Kelly (8/20/93) -- Shot two men to death, then threw their bodies over a cliff during a robbery, abduction, and murder spree.
James Russell (9/19/91) -- Murdered 24-year-old Thomas Stearns, who was the manager of the Radio Shack that Russell had robbed two years before. Stearns was due to testify against Russell in the upcoming trial. Russell was out on bail at the time.
Gerald Mitchell -- Shot three men in the same day.
John Baltazar -- Killed a five-year-old girl.
David Gibbs -- Broke into the home of Marietta Bryant and Carol Ackland at the apartment complex where he was a maintenance man. Cut their throats with a butcher knife.
Jack Clark -- Abducted, raped, and stabbed to death 23-year-old Melisa Garcia.
Robert Madden -- Shot and cut the throats of Herbert Megason and his son Don.
William Kitchens -- Abducted, raped, beat, strangled, and finally shot Patricia Webb. Arrested in possession of Webb’s car, credit cards, and checkbook.
Joe Gonzales -- Robbed and shot William Veader in Veader’s home. Staged scene to appear to be a suicide.
Carlos Santana -- Killed 29-year-old Oliver Flores during a failed robbery.
Odell Barnes -- Broke into the home of Helen Bass. Beat Bass with a lamp and rifle, stabbed her in the neck, sexually assaulted her, then shot her in the head.
John Gallamore -- Murdered Clayton Kenney, 83, Juliana Kenney, 74, and Adrienne Arnot, 44 in their home. The victims were robbed, beaten, and stabbed.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:47 PM on December 11, 2004

LittleMissCranky: I share your concerns and am quite conflicted about the application of the death penalty. Part of that concern stems from precisely what you detail in your comment: the visceral impact of the description of the crime. Admittedly, each of the men listed above was convicted of the corresponding crime. However, what we don't see in this list is the evidence that connects those men with their crime. In an ideal world--one in which we could rely on the criminal justice system to apply, without error, the death penalty only when the convicted actually committed the crime--we could trust that the evidence exists and conclusively ties the convicted man to his crime. However, the fact that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice lists the crimes next to the names does not mean that those men actually committed the crime. Indeed, given the rate of error in capital cases, even the fact that these men were convicted does not mean we can be without doubt that they committed the crime.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:58 PM on December 11, 2004

I agree with you, m_b, but I think that that's often overstated. A majority of the cases cited here ended in either a confession or pretty unrefutable evidence, like the inmate getting caught driving the victim's car with blood all over them.

I just object to an emotional appeal like this one (not that I don't appreciate the link -- I do) that ignores the realities of the lives that most of them, without much of a doubt, devastated.

I guess that there are a couple of different arguments being made here. First is that innocent people are executed. I don't think that anyone can argue with that, or disagree that it's a serious problem. Second, there's an emotional argument made through the poignance of last meal requests. That loses me a little, since Clifton Russell was not all that thoughtful about his victim's last experiences.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 9:40 PM on December 11, 2004

Lucky Pierre, a Chicago artist group, has been (still is?) putting together a piece called finalmeals.htm where members of the public are filmed eating each of the last meals. I imagine participating would be a pretty powerful experience.
posted by jaut at 10:14 PM on December 11, 2004

So hungry..
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:39 PM on December 11, 2004

My wife, who is a gourmet cook (honestly), told me that if she had to request a last meal, death-row style, she'd ask for a hamburger.

I still don't get it.

You don't? If I could be reasonably sure of its being a good hamburger, that would be high up on my list of last requests. Comforting and delicious -- who could ask for anything more? Do you really want to be trying to do justice to the subtleties of a gourmet meal while you're waiting for that last walk?
posted by languagehat at 6:22 AM on December 12, 2004

Some seemed to misunderstand the question:
*Justice, Equality, World Peace
*God's saving grace, love, truth, peace and freedom
*Justice, Temperance, with Mercy

Um....I don't think that these guys "misunderstood" the question at all. I think that they actually understood it quite well indeed: This is your last chance to make a public request for something before you die. What do you want?

As the original website says: "I just know that when I consider the choices they made for their final meals they were trying to tell us something. I hope you think so, too."
posted by googly at 11:11 AM on December 12, 2004

I find it heart-breaking that these guys weren't allowed one final cigarette, stick a guard who smokes in there with them and let them have a ciggy.
posted by Navek Rednam at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2004

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