The last meal of the death row

At some point on October 1, 2019, Russell Buckler enjoyed a “special supply”: a Greek roast roast, a smoked beef breast sandwich, two French fries, a glass of cola, and a banana boat Ice cream. This was the last meal before execution, and he was executed shortly after the meal. On the same day, the Missouri State Bureau of Prisons briefed a small group of reporters on Buckler’s request for the last meal.

I saw relevant reports in a British tabloid. This is a seemingly insignificant detail that cannot be ignored when a tragedy ends. The tragedy stemmed from the 1996 murder case. After several appeals to the Supreme Court, the final verdict was that Buckler was sentenced to death by injection.

As a restaurant commentator with a career of more than 20 years, I usually cannot think from the perspective of a chef. Due to the need for writing or interviewing, what do I choose when I want to be on death row? The answer is: there must be no appetite in that situation. For anyone who knew he was going to die, the last meal seemed out of place. However, the various foods at the last meal carried the most memorable gourmet memories of death row prisoners, and could depict their identity or even appearance. This idea made me have a strong creative will, but before this “cooking adventure” begins, I need to study the actual situation of the last meal of the death row.

Different opinions
In the process of checking the information, I found that in more than 50 countries where the death penalty was retained, the United States produced a large number of academic papers or popular works on death row meals. Relevant literature shows that many prisoners had fried chicken and hamburgers, or ice cream and chocolate cookies for their last meal, and these foods accompanied them to spend a good time outing as children.

Christopher Collins, author of “The Last Meal: The Theater of Death Penalty,” views the “Last Meal” as part of a death ceremony approved by the government. In another article, Daniel Lacans pointed out that this method of allowing death row prisoners to order food arbitrarily has shaped it into an autonomous actor, and the news media will further interpret and disseminate their choices. In short, this makes them portrayed as “self-contained villains”-embarking on the path of crime is based on their own choice, thus emphasizing that they are deserved of death penalty, and thus strengthen the rationality of the state to retain the death penalty.

Brian Wansink has done a lot of research on food consumption behavior, and his paper published in the “Appetite” magazine analyzes the nutritional supply of death row prisoners in detail. The article analyzes the last meal of 247 American death row prisoners, with an average calorie of 2756 calories, of which four death row inmates from Texas and Oklahoma all ate more than 7000 calories. Most of what they ordered was common food in street fast food restaurants-70% of the prisoners ordered fried food. Many people have also designated beverage brands-16% ordered Coca-Cola, and 3 people ordered Diet Coke.

In addition to these academic studies, many popular works also focus on the last meal of the death row. For example, Jacqueline Black’s “Last Meal” photography collection, and Brian Price’s cookbook collection “A Meal for It.” Price served a prison sentence in a Texas prison, during which he prepared the last meal for many death row prisoners.

In 2011, Texas terminated the practice of customizing the last meal for death row prisoners. The fuse is that the murderer Brewer ordered a large meal-two fried chicken chops, a pound of roasted meat, etc., but did not eat the last bite. Hearing this, photographer Henry Hargreaves was deeply shocked and set out to study the issue. “For me, capital punishment is no longer an abstract thing.” Hargreaves said, “The details and news of the death row meal made me have to think about this issue from a human perspective. I think, if I will have sympathy with the prisoners for their last meal, and so will the others.”

He started to remake and film the “Last Meal” at home: the mint chocolate ice cream ordered by McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, and the fried chicken nuggets that were ordered by KFC fast food restaurant manager serial killer Gessi. Among them were the meals ordered by Sacco and Vanzetti. They were Italian immigrants who were executed in 1927 for killing two men in armed robbery. The verdict against them sparked worldwide protests. Fifty years later, the governor of Massachusetts declared that “they have not received a fair trial.” In 2013, the “One Meal Only” photography collection was exhibited at the Venice International Art Biennale. “I took these pictures, not to discuss right and wrong.” Hargreaves said, “I hope people see them and think about the issues involved.”

The author of “Last Supper” Tate Redwell believes that the realism of crime works is the tradition of American culture. He said: “People are interested in a life very different from their own, whether it is the Vanity Fair of the Kardashian family or the state of life of the death row.” Michael Jones, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes that the news report is not a death row. Something new. People are interested in the last meal of death row prisoners only because they think of their last meal and wonder if they can infer their personality from the meals ordered by death row prisoners. This can be used as a reason to support and oppose the death penalty.

indeed so. Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty, declared: “Publishing the last meal of a death row prisoner means, to a certain extent, to let the public imagine a cruel situation-how do death row prisoners face the upcoming execution in the short time before and after the meal? “Christina Rose, a senior official of the US branch of the organization, said in a statement: “The last meal’s sparseness usually establishes a connection between the death row world and the daily lives of ordinary people.”

The chairman of the Criminal Justice Foundation, Michael Rashford, has a different view on this. He said that “60% of the supporters of the death penalty actually do not care about this.”

About “who am I”
Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, believes that the media’s excessive focus on death row meals is “to satisfy the sensation of peeping, which has nothing to do with the death penalty’s merits”. “This is also the remnant of the public execution of the hanging and the death penalty in the old era.” He added, “Although the execution is no longer public, it has not eliminated the human pollution that has always been associated.”

Dunham’s point seems to make sense-because we can no longer watch the execution up close, so instead we spy on the last meal of the death row. From this, we try to understand more about people who may have committed terrible crimes, and try to imagine the terrible punishment coming.

This may be an unpredictable problem. In fact, through the last meal of the death row, people have limited information about crime or punishment. When we have to walk a long way to meet death, this is nothing but the boring imagination that we think that a meal can define “who am I”.

[Compiled from the “New York Times”]

Editor: Yao Yuan

Name: John Wayne Gessi
Age: 52 years old

Charges: murder, rape

Place of execution: Illinois

Execution method: injection

Last meal: fried shrimp, KFC chicken nuggets, French fries and strawberries

*Gacy once operated three KFC fast food restaurants at the same time.

Name: Teresa Louis
Age: 41 years old

Charges: murder, rebellion and robbery

Place of execution: Virginia

Execution method: injection

Last meal: fried chicken nuggets, fried peas with butter, apple pie, and pepper (a well-known American beverage brand)

Name: Alan Lee Davis
Age: 54 years old

Charges: robbery, murder

Place of execution: Florida

Execution method: electric chair

Last meal: lobster tail, fried potatoes, fried shrimp, clams in oil, garlic bread and root soda

Name: Ted Bondi
Age: 43 years old

Charges: rape, corpse rape, escape from prison, and murder

Place of execution: Florida

Execution method: electric chair

Last meal: Poached steak, hard-boiled egg, hash browns, toast with jam and butter, milk and juice

* He made no special request and chose the traditional “last meal”.

Name: Ronnie Treger
Age: 40 years old

Charge: Murder

Place of execution: Texas

Execution method: injection

Last meal: Roasted chicken drumsticks, mashed potatoes with country gravy, vegetable salad, peas, bread, tea, white water and Punch

*Texas abolished the convention of “special requests can be made for the last meal” in 2011, and his last meal was an ordinary dungeon.

Name: Ricky Ray Recto
Age: 42 years old

Charge: Murder

Place of execution: Arkansas

Execution method: injection

Last meal: steak, chicken nuggets, cherry sauce and pecan pie

*He did not eat pecan pie and told a prison guard: “I will eat it later.”

Name: Victor Figor
Age: 28 years old

Charges: kidnapping, murder

Place of execution: Iowa

Execution method: Hanging

Last meal: one olive

Name: Timothy McVeigh
Age: 33 years old

Charge: Murder

Place of execution: Indiana

Execution method: injection

Last meal: Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

Name: Nicola Sacco; Bartolomeo Vanzetti
Age: 36 years old; 39 years old

Charge: Murder

Place of execution: Massachusetts

Execution method: electric chair

Last meal: soup, meat, toast and tea

*The Massachusetts government issued a statement in 1977 stating that the two had suffered unfair judgments and the case is still pending.

Name: Ronnie Lee Gardner
Age: 49 years old

Charges: Theft, Robbery and Murder

Place of execution: Utah

Execution method: shooting

Last meal: lobster tail, steak, apple pie, vanilla ice cream

*He watched the movie “The Lord of the Rings” while eating.

Name: Stephen Anderson
Age: 49 years old

Charges: Theft, assault, escape from prison and murder

Place of execution: California

Execution method: injection

Last meal: cheese sandwich, cottage cheese, corn kernels, peach pie, chocolate ice cream and water radish

Name: Angel Nevis Dias
Age: 55 years old

Charges: murder, kidnapping and armed robbery

Place of execution: Florida

Execution method: injection

Last meal: refused to eat

*The prison provided ordinary meals, but he still refused to eat.