Last updated on October 20th, 2023 at 08:08 pm
Death row inmates have been making last requests for centuries. Some of the requests are mundane, while others are downright strange.
In this blog post, we will look at nine of the strangest death row last requests. Some of these requests are shocking, and some are simply bizarre.
Of course, not all requests were granted, but they provide an interesting glimpse into the minds of those on death row.
When Did The Last Meal Become a Thing For Death Row Inmates?
When facing a death sentence, an inmate may be allowed to make a final request.
While some people choose to ask for a specific type of food or drink, others make more unusual requests.
Some of these requests are simply strange, while others are downright weird. However, many may wonder where this tradition started.
The Brief History of The Last Meal
The tradition of the last meal likely stretches back centuries and much further. Some speculate that it was out of fear of ghosts and could be traced back to the last meal of Jesus.
In ancient Greece, you had to feed the person who was getting executed so they could cross the River Styx into the underworld. If not, they could come back as hungry ghosts.
The Puritans were said to hold large feasts for the condemned people believing that the ritual honored the Last Supper of Christ and represented atonement.
The last meal became more common in the United States in the early 1800s. It was seen as a way to ease the transition for the person facing execution and as a humane act.
While it’s likely that the tradition started much earlier in the modern world, in the United States at least, it most likely began in 1924.
For instance, in Texas, the “last meal” was started right after the government replaced the gallows with the electric chair, and the State took over the executions from each county. So let’s dive in and see what death row inmates requested and if the correction facility obliged them.
9 of The Strangest Death Row Last Requests
While it’s typical for condemned people not to get what they ask for — owing to financial or other food limitations — there are still unusual requests. Here are some of the strangest requests that have been made:
The Oklahoma City Bomber asked for two pints of mint-chocolate chip ice cream as his final meal. Instead, he reportedly ate the ice cream alone in his windowless cell the night before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.
On March 15, 1963, Victor Feguer was executed by hanging in Iowa after being convicted for the murder of Dr. Edward Bartles.
Feguer chose a single olive with a pit for his last meal and hoped the tree symbolizing peace would sprout from his grave. Instead, officials found the olive pit in his suit pocket during burial.
The first woman to be executed by lethal injection after the reinstatement of capital punishment dubbed the “Death Row Granny,” Velma Barfield requested a bag of Cheez-Doodles and a can of Coca-Cola as her last meal.
James Edwards Smith
James Edward Smith, the Texas killer they put to death in June 1990, wins the prize for one of the oddest last meal requests: a clump of dirt. Because dirt was not on the list of approved foods provided by prison officials, they denied Smith’s request and gave him yogurt instead.
Gary Carl Simmons, Jr.
A grocery store butcher and a drug addict, Gary Carl Simmons, Jr., was convicted of the 1996 murder and dismemberment of Jeffery Wolfe and the rape of his girlfriend, who had come to his home to collect nearly a $20,000 drug debt.
For his last meal, Simmons requested a 29,000-calorie meal consisting of pizza, Doritos, Mcdonald’s fries, strawberry shakes, and ice cream, but he didn’t finish the button-bursting feast.
On the day before his execution in 2007, Workman asked that a large vegetarian pizza be given to a homeless person in Nashville instead of having his last meal.
The prison refused the request, but many others across Tennessee still followed through with his wish and brought hundreds of pizzas to local shelters for the homeless.
Gerald Lee Mitchell
In 2011, Georgia resident Gerald Lee Mitchell didn’t ask for a complete supper like others; instead, he requested an assortment bag of Jolly Ranchers sweets.
Peter J. Miniel
Peter J. Miniel requested one of the planet’s most enormous death row dinners in history.
The 42-year-old asked for 20 beef tacos and beef enchiladas, two double cheeseburgers, a jalapeño pizza, and fried chicken.
However, it doesn’t stop there; the inmate also requested spaghetti, fruit cake, half a chocolate cake and half of a vanilla cake, cookies-n-cream and caramel-pecan fudge ice cream, two Cokes, two Pepsis, two root beers, and two glasses of orange juice.
Lawrence Russell Brewer
Lawrence Russell Brewer, strangest of death row inmates, asked for an exorbitant last meal: two chicken fried steaks with gravy-drenched onions, a bacon cheeseburger triple meat with all the fixings on the side, one cheese omelet loaded with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and jalapeños.
The inmate’s eyes were bigger than his stomach as he continued to ask for other things like a massive bowl of ketchup-smothered fried okra, barbecued meat by the pound with half a loaf of white bread to sop it up, and three fully decked out fajitas.
Still not finished, Brewer asked for more, such as a Pizza Hut Meat Lovers pizza, a pint of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, a piece of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts, and three root beers.
Even though most prison systems wouldn’t approve such a big demand, the Texas prison system did (at the time, which has since changed).
Brewer refused to eat when the food arrived, stating that he wasn’t hungry. Afterward, Texas stopped honoring last-meal requests.
Why Did Inmates Refuse Their Meals?
Although there is scant data on death row inmates’ culinary choices, we know that some have refused their last meal.
In addition to the case in Texas noted above, Bundy declined his final repast. Some people speculate that there is a biological reason for this: since the inmate is facing death, there is no physical need for food or energy.
And sometimes, it could be that inmates are just too frightened to take a bite. Perhaps it’s even one last bit of defiance.
People Are Fascinated With Last Meals
The tradition of allowing death row inmates the last meal dates back to the early days of the U.S. criminal justice system.
Many condemn the practice as a barbaric holdover from a more brutal era.
Others argue that it is a humane way to comfort those about to be executed.
Whatever your opinion, there is no denying that the last meal request is a fascinating glimpse into the minds of some of America’s most notorious criminals.
In the end, the inmate no longer has control over their life or death, but they can still exert some control over their final moments.
And for that, they are entitled to their last meal. What do you think? Should inmates get a say in their last meal, or is it a pointless gesture?