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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.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | November 19, 2009; 9:34 AM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Comments

"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."

Wow. It's not often that journalists so frankly and publicly reveal their sick perversions to their reading audience. Makes one wonder how thoroughly Ms. Armao got off on the stories of Saddam's head rolling around on the stage after his hanging.

But the execution itself wasn't enough for her. No, she needed to know about the meal, dammit! Front row, popcorn popped, wide-eyed and excited in anticipation of the gruesome affirmation of our still-medieval values. That's our twenty-first century media for you.

What a bloodthirsty, vindictive, vengeful society we have descended into. With the press leading the way down.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 19, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

I made an inquiry about this a few years back with VADOC, having witnessed executions at Greensville. Larry Traylor, the public information officer for VADOC said they allowed the inmate to keep the contents of their last meal private as a matter of dignity, shuld they so choose. It should be noted also that inmates to be executed can only choose a meal from items already on the 28 day menu for the general population at Greensville. No special accomodations.

Posted by: vuac | November 20, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

B202: Lighten up, Francis.

Posted by: nomad_990 | November 22, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

B202: Lighten up, Francis.

Posted by: nomad_990 | November 22, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

A more interesting question is, why on earth do you care?

Posted by: ChrisMacy | November 22, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Jo-Ann, you truly need to get a life! Who in the heck cares what the last meal was before someone is executed! And the fact that you can cite what Bundy, Barfield and McVeigh ate, and that you talk about websites and cookbooks devoted to this subject, shows that you are a very morbid person. SCARY!

Posted by: Amelgepo | November 22, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Talk about bass-ackwards, huh?!

"Officials" at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, VA withheld the details of CONDEMNED *murderer* Larry Bill Elliott's last meal at HIS request. These OFFICIALS are PAID$$ STATE employees of the STATE of Virginia, PAID$$ by OUR (*WE THE PEOPLE*) tax dollars$$!!! THEY did the same for CONDEMNED *murderer* (of 10 people) John Allen Muhammad.

WHY do THESE CONDEMNED *SCUM* have ANY say in the matter?!

By comparison, County and State Gov'ts are REQUIRED by the Freedom of Information Act to PUBLICLY PUBLISH the *salaries* of their Gov't employees (by name) in the local newspapers. But these CONDEMNED *murderers* have a CHOICE as to NOT get the contents of their LAST Meal (paid for by *WE THE PEOPLE*) published?!?!

Talk about Dis-Jointed, WRONG, and *OUT of WHACK*, huh?!

Posted by: Bigrcube | November 23, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

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