If you were asked what your last meal on earth would be, what would you choose? Would it be an extravagant feast, a comforting memory from your childhood, an unhealthy blow-out ordinarily avoided or a nourishing and healing concoction?
The death penalty in Australia
The last person executed in Australia was Ronald Ryan, who was hanged in 1967. He was convicted of shooting and killing warder George Hodson during an escape from Pentridge Prison in Victoria. At the time there were widespread protests and general public outrage.
By 1985, the death penalty had been abolished in all states and territories.
The death penalty Around the world
The death penalty does still exist in some parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and America. You may or may not be surprised to know that public sentiment for capital punishment varies considerably by country and by the crime that has been committed.
Rules of the last meal
In America, it’s customary for prisoners on death row to be given a last meal of their choice. In reality, the meal is provided a day or two before execution and there are some limitations. For example, alcohol and tobacco are often denied.
The budget for the meal also varies considerably by state. For example, in Florida the meal must cost less than $40USD and in Oklahoma the limit is just $15USD.
In some states, there are also rules about who can attend the last meal. For example, in Louisiana, the prison director joins the convict. On occasion, an inmate has been allowed to share the meal with a fellow inmate or have the meal distributed among other prisoners.
Last meal requests
Over the years, there have been many creative requests for death row last meals. Here are ten of the most unusual last meals:
Joseph Mitchell Parsons
Joseph Parsons was executed in 1999 after he hitched a ride with a man named Richard Ernest, who he later murdered.
For his last meal, Parsons was joined by his brother and his cousin. Together, they shared a meal of Burger King Whoppers, fries, chocolate shakes, chocolate chip ice cream, and a packet of grape Hubba Bubba bubble gum.
At the time, his lawyer said Parsons chose a Burger King meal because of their slogan ‘have it your way’, which he believed was symbolic of Parson taking control of his own life.
Gary Carl Simmons Jr.
Gary Simmons was executed in mid June 2012 after he was convicted of being involved in the murder of Jeffery Wolfe.
His final meal request included two Pizza Hut Supreme Deep Dish pizzas, 2kg of parmesan cheese and 10 cups of ranch dressing, 230g of jalapeño nacho cheese, 100g of sliced jalapeños,1.2L of Cherry Coke, 2 large strawberry shakes, a litre of strawberry ice cream, and one family sized bag of Doritos.
At almost 30,000 calories, that's a lot of food!
Gerald Lee Mitchell
Gerald Mitchell was executed in 2001 for the murder of two 18 yr old boys. At the time of the crime, he himself was just 17 years old. For his last meal, he simply asked for a packet of assorted Jolly Ranchers.
Barton Kay Kirkham
In 1956, Barton Kirkham murdered two clerks during the robery of a grocery store. Before he was executed in 1958, he asked the prison warden for pizza and ice cream because “you get cheese, meat and everything else in one meal. Not so much fuss.”
Dobie Gills Williams
Dobie Williams was executed in 1999 after he was convicted of entering a woman’s home and murdering her. From his last meal he wanted a ‘sugar rush’ which he presumably achieved by eating ice cream and 12 chocolate bars.
Philip Ray Workman
In 1981, whilst robbing a fast-food restaurant, Philip Workman shot and killed a police officer.
In an attempt to make amends, instead of feasting on a final extravagant meal, he asked prison officials to give pizzas to the homeless. Unfortunately, his request was denied. In an act of protest, Workman refused to eat anything before his execution.
Ronnie Lee Gardner
Ronnie Gardner was sentenced to death after he killed two men. The first during a robbery and the second whilst attempting to escape from a courthouse.
In the 36 hours before his execution, Gardner avoided food and only drank liquids. It seems he was making room for his final meal - a feast of steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and 7Up.
Thomas Joseph Grasso
Thomas Grasso was executed in March of 1995 for the murder of two elderly people.
For his last meal, he asked for 24 steamed mussels, 24 steamed clams, a Burger King double cheeseburger, six barbecue spare ribs, two strawberry milkshakes, some pumpkin pie with whipped cream and diced strawberries, and a can of Spaghetti-O’s with meatballs, served at room temperature.
Despite fulfilling his massive order almost perfectly, Grasso was a one tough customer. In his final statement he said “I did not get my SpaghettiOs, I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this."
Steven Michael Woods Jr.
Steven Woods was convicted of the murder of a young couple in May of 2001.
Before his execution in 2011, he feasted on 1kg of bacon, a large pizza, fried chicken, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, root beer, and sweet tea, ice cream, two burgers with bacon, fries, and a dozen garlic bread sticks with marinara on the side.
Victor Harry Feguer
In 1960, Victor Feguer, lured Dr. Edward Bartels to a motel room where he shot and killed him. Feaguer was arrested when he tried to sell the doctor’s car.
For his final meal, Feaguer requested a single olive with the pit left inside. After his execution, examiners found the pit in the pocket of his suit. The story goes that Feguer hoped he’d be buried with the pit so an olive tree, a symbol of peace, would grow from his grave.
From the indulgent to the symbolic, each of these prisoners had their reasons for choosing the items in their final earthly meal.
Thinking about your own death can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to make your wishes known so that if something happens unexpectedly, your family is aware of what you would've wanted. This is where the team at Willed can help. You can include your final wishes in your Will and prepay your funeral removing the burden from your loved ones when the time comes.