Saturday, December 13, 2003


It is that "list" time of year. You can't turn around without someone shoving a "Top Ten" this or a "Top Ten" that in your face. So, rather than fighting the trend, we have embraced it.

A couple of notes: This list would not have been possible without the invaluable aid of Michelle Vernon, the delightful co-author of the delightful and informative "Last Suppers; Famous Final Meals from Death Row". The book sits in a place of honor, on the back of my toilet, along with "Charlotte's Web" and "Vixens of Vinyl". It is only $10.47 and a perfect stocking stuffer for those whose stockings run a bit askew. Many of the following descriptions come straight from that book.

And here's the list, starting with No. 10....

10. GARY GILMORE, UTAH, 1977--The alpha. The first person executed when the death penalty was reinstated. Hamburger, eggs, potatoes and contraband bourbon. Happy about winning his legal battle for immediate execution, Gilmore spent his last evening dancing with relatives and tossing back a few mini-bottles of smuggled bourbon.

9. THOMAS GRASSO, OKLAHOMA, 1995--The signature meal in "Last Suppers". Mr. Grasso devoured a dozen steamed mussels, a Burger King double cheeseburger with mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato, a can of Franco-American spaghetti with meatballs, a mango, half of a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and a strawberry milkshake. But, there was a problem. Mr. Grasso had been served spaghetti and meatballs, but had actually requested Spaghetti-O's. He did not take this slight lightly, his last words included this complaint, "I did not get my Spaghetti-O's. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this!"

8. TED BUNDY, FLORIDA, 1989--The scourge of Chi-O's across America, Bundy didn't eat a special last meal. His dinner the night before was a burrito and Mexican rice.

7. EVERYONE LOVES CANDY! GERALD MITCHELL, TEXAS, 2001--one bag of assorted Jolly Ranchers & LEWIS GILBERT, OKLAHOMA, 2003--a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream, a box of assorted cones and a box of Whoppers.

6. TIMOTHY MCVEIGH, THE FEDS, 2001--2 pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Federal criminals are limited to a frugal $20 tab for their last meal requests. During the time leading up to his execution, the radical, self-serving, asinine, propagandizing, deluded animal rights group, PETA, spent time corresponding with McVeigh, imploring him to order a meatless last meal.

5. THE IDEALISTS--ROBERT MADDEN, TEXAS, 1997--He asked that his final meal be provided to a homeless person. His request was denied. & ODELL BARNES, JR., TEXAS, 2000--Justice, Equality, World Peace. His request was denied.

4. AILEEN WUORNOS, FLORIDA, 2002-- One from the softer side of death row. Wuornos didn't order a last meal and skipped the regular fare of barbecued chicken, mashed potatoes, apple crisp and tea but had a cup of coffee about 12:30 a.m. Instead, ate a hamburger and other snack food from the prison's canteen. Later, she drank a cup of coffee. Her story has been portrayed in two movies, three books and an opera.

3. WALTER LAGRAND, ARIZONA, 1999-- LaGrand asked for six fried eggs, 16 strips of bacon, one large serving of hash browns, a pint of pineapple sherbet, a breakfast steak, a cup of ice, 7-Up, Dr Pepper, Coke, hot sauce, coffee, two sugar packs. And, as a final item: four Rolaids.

2. JOHN WAYNE GACY, ILLINOIS, 1994--Kentucky Fried Chicken, fried shrimp, french fries, strawberries and Diet Coke. Once you get the Colonel's recipe of secret herbs and spices in your blood, it's pretty tough to shake. Gacy, the killer of at least 33 young men, was a former manager of a KFC.

1. ROBERT BUELL, OHIO, 2002--A single black, unpitted olive. Actually, Buell was paying homage to to Victor Ferguer, the last prisoner executed by the federal government until Timothy McVeigh. Ferguer was hanged in 1963. His last meal--an olive with the pit still in it. He told prison officials that he hoped it would sprout from his body an olive tree -- a sign of peace. Ferguer's body was unclaimed by family and was quickly taken away by a funeral home after the execution and buried. His unmarked grave in a barren corner of a public cemetery bears no olive tree.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Dateline: China

The highlights:
Execution for China serial killer
BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- A Chinese migrant worker has been sentenced to death for luring 17 teenage boys to his home and murdering them because he wanted to feel the thrill of being an assassin, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Huang Yong, 29, who kept his victims' belts as souvenirs, was the second Chinese serial killer to be sentenced to death this month.

Pingyu county court in central Henan heard that Huang tied the youths to what he called the "intelligent hobbyhorse" -- a noodle-processing contraption -- and suffocated them with a piece of cloth, Xinhua said. It did not elaborate.

Security was tight in and around the Pingyu county court building in central Henan, China's most populous province.

Police held back the members of the victims' families as a grinning Huang arrived escorted by two officers. He wore handcuffs and a prison vest with the number 99.

Bereaved family members repeatedly disrupted court proceedings hurling insults at Huang who spoke softly, the Web arm of Xinhua,, reported.

"I've always wanted to be an assassin since I was a kid, but I never had the chance," said Huang, who, according to Xinhua, had been "affected by films and TV dramas with violent themes."

In September 2001, Huang started to lure young people, mostly from rural areas, from video halls, Internet cafes and video game rooms to his house by offering to recommend them for well-paid jobs or to fund their schooling or sightseeing tours.

The father of Huang's first victim, Lu Ningbo, told Xinhuanet: "Huang Yong is a tumor in society. Even handing down the death sentence will not appease family members."

Huang told the court he did not pick female victims because it would make him less of a "hero." And elderly men were too vigilant, he added.

Huang, who was arrested only last month, worked as a migrant laborer in southern China after a tour of duty in the army.

Huang killed 17 boys and buried them, but kept their belts as souvenirs, Xinhua said.

His 18th potential victim escaped with wounds and reported him to police.

While official violent crime figures are unavailable, China is no stranger to mass killings. Last week, authorities arrested a man accused of killing 65 people.

A court in the southeastern city of Wenzhou sentenced Chen Yongfeng, 20, a rubbish recycler, to death on December 5 for robbing and killing 10 competitors in a three-month murder spree, the semi-official China News Service reported.

Last year, a man killed at least 42 people, many of them children, by slipping rat poison into food at a rival's shop in the eastern city of Nanjing. GETS SLAMMED....

From Ethics

‘Last Meals’ Provoke Reflection

Cliff Vaughn
The Web site is revolting for the disrespectful way it deals with its subject, but the subject itself merits some thought.

The Web address is a morbid play on words: Instead of the familiar “Dead man walking” refrain we associate with death row, we now have a Web site devoted to the last meals of those about to be executed.

A Californian named Mike Randleman operates the site, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Randleman—as one might expect—has been accused of “making a spectacle” and capitalizing on something as sober as capital punishment.

Randleman defended himself by sharing an e-mail from a site visitor who thought that “manages to humanize the most hated segment of our society. A difficult if not impossible task.”

The visitor may be correct, but for now let’s dwell on the fact that the site features graphics, wording and even merchandise that are in incredibly poor taste. Rather than discussing the topic of last meals with the gravity it deserves, the site treats a man’s last moments as a punch line.

If Randleman really intends for the site to be a sociological examination of last meals, then that’s what it should be. But it isn’t, and Randleman doesn’t deserve credit for his foul treatment of a serious topic. The weightiness of last meals should be evident: We’re going to kill a person, but we’re thoughtful enough to grant a generous platter prior to the act.

Regardless of your opinion on capital punishment, you can probably find something eerie in perusing the meals that people—knowing they are about to die—request.

Some request a steak and potato. Others want a pizza. Still others just want ice cream, while a few want nothing at all, too nervous to eat.

People who actually study last meals suggest that we’re interested in such information because it gives us a connection to the offender; we may not be mass murderers, but we like cheeseburgers, too. In that way, seeing one’s final meal does humanize the person.

As the site visitor that Randleman was quick to quote said, a person’s last meal may say a lot about his history: economic, cultural and educational. Some folks are comforted by the taste and texture of fried okra, whereas others have never tried it.

In the process of writing this column, I visited the Web site for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which posted the final meal requests of those about to be executed.

Coincidentally, I visited on the last day such information was posted. The next day, the link to last meals was gone. I contacted Michelle Lyons, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who said the department had taken the link down as it works to determine the balance between providing information and offending people.

Lyons said the most frequently asked question about executions deals with the last meal, which prompted the link in the first place. The California Department of Corrections still provides last meal information.

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for

Obviously, the site is not for Mr. Vaughn. As we often say "It's not for everyone, but it might be for you."

Just a couple of things for the record...
Mr. Vaughn writes, "the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Randleman—as one might expect—has been accused of “making a spectacle” and capitalizing on something as sober as capital punishment."

The actual article read, "he has been accused of exploiting "a sick spectacle." There is a big difference between the two. And, nowhere is the word "capitalizing" used. We find it ironic that someone writing in Ethics Daily, lacks the ethics to correctly relay the quote or its meaning. But, perhaps, we are wrong. It might not be a question of ethics, but one of incompentence.

Lastly, Mr. Vaughn writes, "..."Randleman defended himself by sharing an e-mail from a site visitor..." That is incorrect. There was no defending mentioned in article, for one simple reason...we don't feel the need to defend ourselves. We have an interest in last meals. We agree that it may be a bit morbid, like serial killer trading cards or collecting the paintings of John Wayne Gacy. But it is our interest.

The glory of the internet is that if one percent of one percent of one percent of Americans have the same morbid interest, they now have a place to go.

And a place to buy the brand new trucker hat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


rebecca n-b (g) of tucson,az, but originally from indianapolis, indiana straps on the feed bag...
breakfast--My homemade biscuits n gravy, 2 slices bacon, and 1/2 gallon chocolate
milk, and a newport to smoke afterwards
lunch--2 taco's from taco bell(only meat n cheese n sour cream) 44 oz mountain dew, 2 white castle's no onions with cheese, chili with cheese and cheese fries from steak n shake, glass of milk , and 2 more newports to smoke
snack--crazybread from little ceaser's and another mountain dew, and of course another smoke but this time make it a camel turkish jade
dinner--16 oz steak medium rare with plenty of a-1 steak sauce, loaded baked potato, (2)biscuits w/apple butter, coca-cola, green-beans with red potatoes and bacon in them, some of my mom's homemade choclate chip cookies,milk.home made mac n cheese,a white russian, a mudslide extra shot of vodka,3 newports to smoke
dessert--some sherbert orange and lime, and a slice of choclate pie with cool whip, a captain morgan and sprite, a bumpy face segrams gin mixed with
hawaiin punch, 2 vicodin 750's, 2 morphiene pills, 2 oxycode, 2 loratabs, and 1/2 pack of newports, 1/2 pack of camel turkish jades, then f*ck it let them take me----if I am even conscious to know what's bout to happen.


our second from Arizona...

Sandi F., Arizona--grilled salmon in garlic butter sauce, steamed broccoli with seasoned salt
roasted baby potatoes with butter, burnt English muffin with orange marmalade
beverage: raspberry ice tea
dessert: pumpkin pie with vanilla bean ice cream, with a Starbucks capuccino.


two from Chicago...

Nancy L. from Chicago--one porterhouse steak BLOODY.(lop it's horns and hooves, wipe it's ass and send it on by!), Alaskan king crab legs with lemons and clarified butter, 2 dozen baked clams(not too salty), 1 boston cream pie, 1 homemade deepdish apple pie, 1 tub of the best frozen custard there is, 3 cans of room temp spaghettios, hot baked gonella bread with loads of butter and garlic, 1 gallon of Mr. Pibb, 1 gallon of Green River- both sodas have to be nearly icing up!!!, 1 lbs of Fanny Mae mallow dips, 2 8 oz lobster tails (Australian of course), large bowl of boushala( an Assyrian dish), a bowl of golden dole pineapple and finally, 8 oz of liquid morphine to wash it all down with!!


Ninja from goes...a "Butter Bowl", which comes from Maine, which is Maine lobster tail shredded in a bowl of melted butter, 1 gallon of Greek Lemon Rice soup, 2 Double Cheeseburgers (w/o pickles) from White Castles, a Sanfrancisco Melt and a large order of onion rings from Steak 'N Shake, 6 ice-cold bottles (24 oz.) of Pepsi, and 12 Cheddar Biscuits from Red Lobster. Then, since my heart will have already stopped beating from all the cheese and butter, I'll be good to go!

All this food and no, oh, my.


Mr. Banks was once nine minutes from execution when the Supreme Court stepped in and agreed to hear his case. That hearing took place on Monday and, by all indications, was a good day for Mr. Banks. The following is compiled from various accounts of the hearing from AP, The NYTimes, The Houston Chronicle and and the Chicago Tribune. A side note: All four articles were written by woman. Does that mean anything? No. I just found it interesting.

The Case:

Banks was convicted and sentenced to death in 1981 for the 1980 killing of a 16-year-old former co-worker at a fast-food outlet. He is the longest-serving of 453 prisoners on Texas' death row, has had 15 execution dates in the nearly 24 years since he was sentenced to die.

The skinny: Texas prosecutors said Banks lured Richard Whitehead to a park and shot him three times to steal his car. Banks maintains that he is not guilty and that he was framed by lying witnesses.

No physical evidence in the murder case linked Banks, then 21, to the crime. He had no prior criminal record, but he quickly became a suspect because he was the last person seen with Whitehead.

Critical to his conviction and death sentence was testimony by two witnesses, both of whom lied on the stand. Instead of correcting the testimony, prosecutors told the jury both had been truthful.

A Texas federal court judge threw out Banks' sentence three years ago. But a federal appeals court disagreed and reinstated the sentence.

Lies and Liars: At his trial, a key witness and two-time felon, Charles Cook, testified that Banks had confessed to him the day after the crime. Cook said Banks also gave him the murder weapon and the victim's stolen 1969 Ford Mustang.

Cook denied that he had cut a deal with prosecutors for his testimony and that he had been coached on what to say.

Both of those assertions were lies, but Bowie County prosecutors never corrected him. They also failed to tell Banks' lawyer that they had dropped an arson charge against Cook in exchange for his testimony.

That fact was discovered by Banks' appellate attorneys in 1998 -- 18 years after the trial. Also discovered then was a 74-page transcript of a meeting in which an investigator and a prosecutor coached Cook on his trial testimony, mocking him when he was unable to keep his own story straight.

During the sentencing phase, Kendall argued, jurors relied on the false testimony of another witness, Robert Farr, an informant who was paid $200 to help police find the murder weapon and pin the crime on Banks.

Farr testified that Banks had traveled to Dallas with him to collect the gun from Cook so that Banks could commit future armed robberies. The jury, Kendall said, used that information to decide that Banks would be a future danger -- a requirement of imposing the death penalty in Texas. Asked during the trial whether he had accepted money from police, Farr said no.

Again, prosecutors failed to correct the lie.

Several former federal prosecutors and judges, including former FBI Director William Sessions, have sided with Banks in the case, arguing in court briefs that such egregious misconduct by prosecutors has the effect of "substantially undermining public confidence" in the death penalty system.

The Supremes: Expressing concern about the integrity of the criminal-justice system, several Supreme Court justices indicated yesterday they believed the court should throw out the sentence of one of the nation's longest-serving death-row inmates because of the alleged misconduct of the prosecutors at trial.

The justices seemed troubled by assertions that prosecutors had failed to provide key documents and information to Banks' lawyers that could have made the difference in life or death.

The majority of the justices repeatedly challenged Texas Assistant Attorney General Gena Bunn's argument that the prosecutors didn't lie, and that even if they did, it was up to Banks' lawyers to object at trial or in their early appeals.

Justices also seemed troubled that prosecutors had permitted witnesses to testify falsely. "Why isn't the burden on the prosecutor ... to come clean rather than let this falsehood remain on the record?" Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked.

Supporters: Banks' supporters include former prosecutors and judges who say they are concerned about the egregious failings by the prosecution and defense counsel. They say this case exhibits two of the most prevalent flaws in the death-penalty system: The failure of prosecutors to disclose evidence that could spare a defendant and the inadequacy of lawyers representing those facing the death penalty.

In the end, it appeared to be a very good day for Delma Banks Jr. The justices will decide Banks' case by next summer.

However, the facts of the Banks case are tangled and unusual, meaning that a ruling in his favor may have little effect on other death row inmates or on future prosecutions. Still, the case has become widely known and Banks' supporters say a Supreme Court victory would be an important statement that states must play by the rules in death penalty trials.

Dateline: Vietnam


The highlights:

Vietnam firm on death penalty

Vietnam has achieved a dubious distinction by sentencing 100 people to death this year.

Two death penalties handed down to drug traffickers on Monday got the country to the 100 mark.

Apart from the sentences, Vietnam has also executed 62 people by the firing squad this year. Most of these have been for murder and drug trafficking.

Human rights groups have been urging the communist nation for several years to abolish the death penalty, but Vietnam has shown no signs of going slow on executions.

"This is a very effective measure," Le The Tiem, deputy minister of public security said in September of the death penalty.

"Once drug-related crimes are eradicated, we might consider changing our policy with lesser penalties."

Apart from murder and drug trafficking, Vietnam has also started handing down the death penalty in graft cases, in an attempt to curb increasing corruption in public life.

"Routinely unfair trials in Vietnam mean that the death penalty is imposed under conditions which may lead to irreversible miscarriages of justice," Amnesty International said in August.

Such concerns, however, appear to trouble few people in the country.

"Much of the debate appears to have been over the method used to carry out executions, not over whether they should be happening at all," Human Rights Watch said.

Replacing firing squads

In 1999 Prime Minister Phan Van Khai wanted the firing squad to be replaced by lethal injection, but no action was ultimately taken.

Executions are carried out at special sites at dawn. The victim is blindfolded and tied to a stake.

Spectators are welcome to attend, but the victim's family is rarely informed. They are ordered to come and recover personal belongings, two or three days later.

The body of the executed is only made available to their families for formal funerals three years later.


It is a week unprecedented in the annuls of DME.COM. A week that brightens the spirits of death penalty opponents. A week that crushes the souls of the families of murder victims, who have waited years, even decades for justice to be served. A week in which four men had a date with the needle. A week in which all four escaped that date.

The skinny on the "Fortunate Four."

1. Billy Vickers, Texas--fatally shot a grocery store owner during a botched robbery attempt almost 11 years ago.

Saved by a lawsuit that sought a permanent injunction against use of pancuronium bromide -- a drug that paralyzes muscles and is one of the three chemicals used in the procedure.

Vickers dodged execution when the 5th Circuit failed to rule by midnight, six hours after the time he could have been put to death, and the death warrant expired.

Vickers became the first condemned Texas inmate to have a death warrant expire since lethal injection became the method of capital punishment in Texas in 1982. Previously, either the inmate was executed, as 313 have been, or a court or the governor halted the punishment.

2. Kevin Zimmerman, Texas--Got a reprieve 20 minutes before he could have been put to death for a fatal stabbing and robbery at a Beaumont motel in 1987. Zimmerman is also part of the above lawsuit.

His reaction: "I'm disappointed," Zimmerman told Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons. "I was ready to go. The stay only means 18 more months of this crap."

3. Eddie Crawford, Georgia--Sentenced to death for the 1983 murder of his 2-year-old niece. Crawford is seeking to have several pieces of possible blood evidence tested for DNA. Crawford's lawyers have argued that several items should be tested for DNA based on a new law enacted this year giving inmates greater access to post-conviction DNA testing.

The court issued an order shortly before 4 p.m., about three hours before Crawford was to die by lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson.

4. Bobbie Lee Hines, Texas--Condemned for the 1991 robbery and fatal stabbing of a woman at a Dallas apartment. Hines execution was stopped when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to consider arguments that he is mentally retarded and ineligible for the death penalty under a Supreme Court ruling last year.

That leaves only one scheduled diner--James Ried, Virginia, Dec. 18--before the kitchen closes for the year. Unless, of course, there is another DNA-retarded-pancuronium bromide moment and the kitchen might already be closed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

A startling development in Texas. From the Dallas Morning News (reg. req.)...

The highlights....

State prison agency pulls plug on last-meal Web site
Public appetite for data superseded by concerns about taste, officials say

By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News

In the end – the very end – it comes down to a matter of taste.

After years of posting the last meals of condemned inmates for public perusal, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has deleted that information from its Web site.

The elimination of the popular page was part of a redesign to be launched this week, said department spokeswoman Michelle Lyons, but the decision to remove the information was also partly in response to objections.

"We had gotten some complaints from people who thought it was in poor taste," Ms. Lyons said.

The decision by the department's "executive administration" makes life difficult for Ms. Lyons, who fields media requests, because questions about prisoners' last meals are common.

"The reason we had it on the Web site to begin with was because that was the No. 1 inquiry from the public," she said. "So really, we can't win."

Gee, a website that posted all these last meals in one place might become pretty popular place. Hmmmmm, I wonder if there is one out there....


Texas Postpones Execution Due to Appeal

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -State authorities postponed the execution of a man scheduled to die Tuesday for fatally shooting a grocery store owner during a botched robbery attempt almost 11 years ago.

The execution of Billy Frank Vickers was delayed after an appeal to a federal appeals court was not resolved in time, said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

``It's our common practice to wait until a court rules before proceeding with an execution,'' Lyons said just after midnight Tuesday.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Vickers and the two other Texas inmates who were facing execution this week sought a permanent injunction against use of pancuronium bromide, a drug that paralyzes muscles and is one of the three chemicals used in the procedure.

The drug's use allows pain and constitutes an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, according to the lawsuit.

The case was dismissed Monday by a federal judge in Houston but went to the federal appeals courts.

It's the first time in 21 years in Texas that a death warrant expired and a death penalty case was left unresolved on an execution day.

Monday, December 08, 2003


An addition, a good story and a follow-up....


Eagle-eyed reader Kris noticed that the last words for Robbie Lyons were incomplete. It should read...

"It is from Allah that I come and it is to Allah that I return. If my death brings another person happiness, then I'm happy for them."

Thanks, Kris. We need all the help we can get.


We want to share this story that Bill S. of Indiana, sent in. It is straight out of the "The Front Page/My Girl Friday" school of reporting....

I am a retired newspaperman. I know of a reporter who many years ago was covering an execution. The doomed man ordered a steak, potatoes, salad and such, but when the meal arrived, the convict, suffering a case of nerves, lost his appetite. After the execution took place, the reporter stole back to the man's cell on death row and ate the meal.

Ah, that fourth estate....


From last week...

Will S. writes...

....Finally, I did not easily find the famous story of the Texas man who asked for his meal to be fed to a homeless person. This should be featured on every site like yours....

We comply...

Robert Madden, Texas (natch), was executed on 5/28/1997 for the murder of two men. He asked that final meal be provided to a homeless person

We were unable to find out if that request was fulfilled.

Happily, Will S. followed-up on the fate of this culinary gesture. Adding, "I have to say this man is my hero. Obviously, a state who would execute a man who has real compassion demonstrates the futility of capital punishment. I know I couldn't pull the switch on a man who made this last request."

Will sent in an article of an art show review. One of the artist did a quasidocumentary on last meals and toward the end of the review, Mr. Madden was mentioned....

Robert Anthony Madden asked that a meal be given to a homeless person instead of him. (The request was denied.)

The request was denied.