Dining on death row
By Jo-Ann Armao
Larry Bill Elliott died in Virginia’s electric chair Tuesday night and, among other things, his last meal wasn’t revealed. Officials at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt withheld the details at Elliott’s request. The decision -- like that a week earlier not to disclose the last meal of executed Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad -- irked me.
Why should these men get privacy? Muhammad was responsible for a reign of terror that is still felt in the Washington area. Elliott, in a twisted bid to win the love of a former stripper, killed a young couple that was involved in a bitter custody dispute with the woman. Who cares what they think? Don’t public tax dollars pay for this food?
Mostly, though, I have always been fascinated by what those condemned to die choose to eat as their last meal. And I am not alone. A former editor who worked the late shift on the Post’s national desk would regularly send out messages to members of "The Last Supper Club" detailing the food selections of those on death row. Serial killer Ted Bundy was served steak, eggs, hash browns and coffee. Arsenic murderess Velma Barfield was content with a bag of Cheez Doodles and a Coke. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh dined on ice cream.
The state of Texas once listed its inmates’ last meals on its website, and a convict who once helped in the preparation collected them into a "Meals to Die For" cookbook. Incredibly, it’s not the only one of its genre. Indeed, there is a website for those who share my morbid interest. The tradition is said to date to ancient times. And some say it is based on a superstition that if you give condemned people last meals, they are more able to accept their fate and forgive those putting them to death.
So perhaps that’s why Virginia officials choose to respect the last silly wish of men who don’t want their final meals shared with the public. It makes them -- and, by extension, society -- feel less guilty for putting them to death.
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