The Murderer’s Last Meal: The Final Meals of Seven Infamous Killers
The United States is not alone in its use of capital punishment. According to Amnesty International, 53 countries still offer capital punishment, while 18 countries allowed executions in 2020.
Even so, the details of a prisoner’s last meal have become a peculiarly American institution. Details are reported in newspapers with as much breathless enthusiasm as the execution itself.
It’s a subject that has invited interest and study from bona fide academics as well as armchair experts. Some say offering the final meal humanizes the criminal, implying they retain some sense of control and free will. Others say it’s simply a parting kindness, a gesture that separates us from the people we are sentencing to death.
The tradition of offering prisoners a final meal before execution dates back to at least 16th century England. At that time, prisoners shared their final meal with their executioner. Over the generations, Last Meal rituals were recorded throughout Europe. Prisoners were not always offered a choice in the menu, but they were offered a feast and, in some cases, a drink before the execution.
In America, the tradition really took hold, with prisons in every state establishing laws and rules about the Last Meal of a death row prisoner. Generally speaking, prisoner requests were honored and reported to the press and a public eager for details of a condemned prisoner’s final days.
The fact that the Final Meal has endured, both in public fascination and cultural adherence, while attitudes toward the prison system and corporal punishment have shifted, speaks to its cultural importance.
The Final Meals of Seven Famous Killers
Execution Date: October 9, 2002
Final Meal: Refused final meal — given cup of black coffee
Aileen Wuornos experienced a childhood filled with neglect and abuse. It’s no wonder that, when asked what meal might bring her some modicum of comfort, she was…