What 12 death-row inmates requested for their last meal

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Ricky Ray Rector’s last meal, as staged by Henry Hargreaves.
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Henry Hargreaves

In the 31 US states and various countries where the death penalty is legal, it’s customary to give sentenced prisoners a special last meal at their request. Restrictions do apply – for example, in Florida the final meal can only cost up to $40, and it must be prepared locally.

Food photographer Henry Hargreaves has never agreed with the practice of the death penalty, so when he heard in 2011 that Texas was abolishing the special last-meal request for death-row inmates, he became fascinated by the tradition.

“I dug into [researching] it, went a little deeper and found a public record [of the meals]. For the first time, these people became humanized,” he told Business Insider. “I thought it was really powerful that through food I was able to have an understanding of these people as real human beings.”

Since there’s never been a published photograph of an inmate’s last meal, Hargreaves shot the meals in various staged settings. “You don’t know if they’re being served on china plates, or plastic, or eating on their laps, or at a wooden table, so I tried to explore all these variations,” he said.

Although Hargreaves has his own opinions on the death penalty, he didn’t want to preach his beliefs with the work. “All I wanted was to make people have the conversation and be aware of it,” he said. “That’s the power of art; it [puts] a mirror up to the subject, and [viewers] can have a conversation amongst themselves and come to their own conclusions.”


Victor Feguer, 28 years old, Iowa — kidnap and murder, death by lethal injection in 1963

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Single olive with the pit in it.
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Henry Hargreaves

John Wayne Gacy, 52 years old, Illinois — rape and 33 counts of murder, death by lethal injection in 1994

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12 fried shrimp, bucket of original recipe KFC, french fries, a pound of strawberries.
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Henry Hargreaves

Timothy McVeigh, 33 years old, Indiana — 168 counts of murder, death by lethal injection in 2001

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Two pints of mint and chocolate-chip ice cream.
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Henry Hargreaves

Ricky Ray Rector, 42 years old, Arkansas — two counts of murder, death by lethal injection in 1992

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Steak, fried chicken, cherry Kool-Aid, pecan pie.
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Henry Hargreaves

Stephen Anderson, 49 years old, California — burglary and assault, escaped prison, seven counts of murder, death by lethal injection in 2002

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Two grilled cheese sandwiches, pint of cottage cheese, Hominy/corn mixture, peach pie, chocolate-chip ice cream, radishes.
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Henry Hargreaves

Ted Bundy, 43 years old, Florida — rape, necrophilia, prison escape, 35+ counts of murder, death by electric chair in 1989

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Declines a “special” meal, so was given the traditional last meal: steak (medium rare), eggs (over easy), hash browns, toast with butter and jelly, milk, juice.
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Henry Hargreaves

Ángel Nieves Díaz, 55 years old, Florida — murder, kidnapping, robbery, death by lethal injection in 2006

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Declined a meal, was served the regular prison meal instead, but declined this also.
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Henry Hargreaves

Ronnie Lee Gardner, 49 years old, Utah — burglary, robbery, two counts of murder, death by firing squad in 2010

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Lobster tail, steak, apple pie, vanilla ice cream, eaten while watching the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
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Henry Hargreaves

Allen Lee “Tiny” Davis, 54 years old, Florida — robbery and three counts of murder, death by electric chair in 1999

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Lobster tail, fried potatoes, half-pound of shrimp, six ounces of fried clams, half-loaf of garlic bread, 32-ounce A&W root beer
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Henry Hargreaves

Teresa Lewis, 41 years old, Virginia — murder, conspiracy, and robbery, death by lethal injection in 2010

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Fried chicken, peas with butter, apple pie, Dr. Pepper.
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Henry Hargreaves

Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, 36 and 39 years old, Massachusetts — two counts of murder, death by electric chair in 1927

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Soup, meat, toast, tea.
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Henry Hargreaves

In 1977, the governor of Massachusetts issued a statement saying that they had been unfairly tried and convicted. The case is still open.


Ronnie Threadgill, 40 years old, Texas — murder, death by lethal injection in 2013

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Baked chicken, mashed potatoes with country gravy, vegetables, sweet peas, bread, tea, water, punch. Texas abolished the “last meal” in 2011, so he was given the same meal as everyone else in his unit.
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Henry Hargreaves