Your last breath is only a few hours away. The governor isn’t going to call. People are gathering outside to cheer your death. The Death Row chaplain has run out of prayers. The clock is ticking like a time bomb.
You have one final decision before your life is over: what will you eat for your last meal? Porterhouse steak? Beef Wellington? French nouvelle?
Serial killer and rapist John Wayne Gacy‘s last meal was two fried shrimp, a bucket of original recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken, French fries, and a pound of strawberries.
Serial killer Ted Bundy‘s last meal was Florida’s traditional traditional last meal of medium rare steak, over-easy eggs, hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, milk, and juice.
Terrorist Timothy McVeigh‘s last meal was simple: two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. And he finished them both.
In Texas, where we keep painfully detailed Death House records, the most common answer is surprising: cheeseburgers and fries. Why? After 20 years in stir, where cheeseburgers aren’t commonly served in the prison chow line, they are the most evocative comfort food in a Dead Man Walking’s memory of the outside world. Or maybe they just taste good.
Double and triple cheeseburgers were on the Last Menu for killers. Most were prepared in the prison kitchens, but insiders reveal that they’ll occasionally make a quick run to the Golden Arches to satisfy a last request.
But burgers aren’t the only surprising final entree for the condemned. Hatchet-killer David Long had four BLTs. Baby-killing mass-murderer John Wheat had liver and onions—and whole milk. Family killer Leonard Rojas had a whole fried chicken (extra crispy). Shootist John Baltazar asked for Cool Whip and cherries. James Powell wanted one pot of coffee. Random killer Jonathan Nobles requested communion for his last meal. And robber-killer Clifton Russell wasn’t picky—he asked for “whatever is on the menu.”
Just like the outside world, cheeseburgers are declasse for the celebrities of Texas’ Death Row. Serial killer Ricky Lee Green had five scrambled eggs, four sausage patties, eight slices of toast, six strips of bacon and four pints of milk. Born-again pick-axe killer Karla Faye Tucker chose a banana, a peach and a garden salad with ranch dressing. Serial killer Kenneth McDuff gorged himself on two T-bone steaks, five fried eggs, French fries, coconut pie and Coke. “Candyman” Ronald O’Bryan — who poisoned his own son and ruined Halloween for many children —ate a T-bone with corn and peas, saltines, Boston cream pie and sweet tea. Railroad Killer Angel Maturino Resendiz declined any last meal.
In September 2011, the state of Texas ended all special last-meal requests after Lawrence Russell Brewer asked for wo chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza topped with pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon, and sausage; one pint of Blue Bell ice cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers. He didn’t eat any of it. “I’m just not hungry,” he said.
Last Meals are purely symbolic of society’s mercy. They are generally served so close to execution that they have no nutritional value to the condemned. In most cases, they don’t even have time to digest completely. They are simply a gesture to provide one last comfort or pleasure to a man or woman who’ll be dead within a few hours.
So … what would you order for your Last Meal?