Green Room

Death row inmate goes out on full stomach, ingests 29,000-calorie last meal

posted at 3:19 pm on July 15, 2012 by

Except in Texas, which did away with the policy in 2011, condemned men in prisons throughout the U.S. continue to eat a hearty meal before their date with the executioner—some heartier than others.

Consider the final earthly repast of murderer Gary Carl Simmons, who was put to death at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman on June 21. Simmons requested, received, and consumed two pizzas (one of them a medium Super Supreme Deep Dish pie from Pizza Hut), five pounds of Parmesan cheese, 10 cups of ranch dressing, two pints of strawberry ice cream, a family-size bag of nacho cheese flavor Doritos, and a super-size order of McDonald’s fries with ketchup and mayo, and to wash it all down two strawberry shakes and 40 ounces of Cherry Coke. Total calories: 28,974.

The Daily Mail reports that the meal also provided 2,077 grams of fat, close to 35 times the USDA’s recommended daily intake for that nutrient. One might argue that the man should be more vigilant about his diet. Then again….

Although the typical death row last meal gravitates toward high-fat and often fried foods, not all inmates have plebian tastes. The article notes that Robert Dale Conklin, who used a screwdriver to kill his gay lover and then dismembered the corpse in Georgia in 1984, feasted on shrimp sautéed in garlic butter with lemon, bacon-wrapped filet mignon,a  baked potato with butter, sour cream, chives, and real bacon bits, corn on the cob, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, French bread with butter, goat cheese, cantaloupe, apple pie, vanilla bean ice cream, and iced tea.

Simmons’ meal meanwhile has rekindled an argument that life on death row is too comfortable. In a piece published around the time of the execution, ABC News recalled a galling letter sent to a local newspaper the previous January by one Danny Robbie Hembree Jr., a death row inmate at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C. In the letter, Hembree (who still awaits execution) boasted:

Is the public aware that I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, taking naps at will, eating three, well-balanced, hot meals a day…. Kill me if you can, suckers. Ha! Ha! Ha!’

The spiteful taunt prompted death penalty advocate and New York Law School professor Robert Blecker to renew efforts to raise public awareness of the “undeservedly pleasant” life that has become the norm for prisoners inside America’s maximum-security prisons. “They’re playing on softball fields with lined base paths and umpires in uniforms, while other guys are hanging out, getting a suntan,” he told reporters. “Those who committed the worst crimes, who deserve to suffer the most, generally suffer the least.”

Blecker, who has produced a documentary and written a book about the pampered treatment accorded many of the nation’s most flagrant offenders, said most Americans are clueless about the reality of prison life. He said prison life can be so cushy that some convicts claim to have killed just to get put away.

But back to Simmons’s last meal. Lest anyone assume that his calorie-fest set some kind of world record, take note of food writer Waverly Root’s description in his delightful Eating in America of a “normal dinner” for financier and gastronome Diamond Jim Brady. The meal “began with two or three dozen Lynnhaven oysters.”

Then came half a dozen crabs, two bowls of green turtle soup, [six or seven] lobsters …, a double portion of terrapin, two canvasback ducks, a large sirloin steak with appropriate vegetables, and when a tray of French pastry was presented for dessert, its entire contents.

At the time of his death, Root later writes, Brady’s stomach was six times the normal size.

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Simmons’ meal meanwhile has rekindled an argument that life on death row is too comfortable.

One of these things is not like the other. I have no problem with giving a good last meal before killing them. I do have a big problem with pampering them in prison. The conditions should be spartan, and the meals healthy, but frugal.

sharrukin on July 15, 2012 at 3:35 PM

IMO, they should give the ‘last meal’ request not to the inmate, but the family that the was harmed? Why should anyone in prison/or about to be put to death get such food?
You can bet your bippy those doing killing didn’t give those they killed such food?
L

letget on July 15, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Michelle Obama is not going to be happy about this. A meal like that could kill him.

A couple of slices of balogna between two pieces of bread.

rbj on July 15, 2012 at 4:05 PM

A meal like that could kill him.

Actually, I did a little digging and found out that if the inmate had become gravely ill from his excessive meal, heroic measures would have been taken to save his life … so that he could die as the state intended.

Our tax dollars at work.

Howard Portnoy on July 15, 2012 at 4:11 PM

I sure hope he was wearing a diaper when he was executed.

For the record, I always heard what they requested was not what they received in that they were limited to what could be made in the prison kitchen. Others will order food but there is a price cap on it.

Blake on July 15, 2012 at 4:22 PM

The tales of what constituted a normal meal for Diamond Jim Brady may have been exaggerated. See this article.

J.S.K. on July 15, 2012 at 4:51 PM

Deathrow inmates should be fed MRE’s and water. If it is good enough for our troops, it is too good for convicted murders.

DAT60A3 on July 15, 2012 at 4:59 PM

Actually, I did a little digging and found out that if the inmate had become gravely ill from his excessive meal, heroic measures would have been taken to save his life … so that he could die as the state intended.

Our tax dollars at work.

Howard Portnoy on July 15, 2012 at 4:11 PM

*bangs head on desk*

The warden actually went through with this? How about putting a reasonable limit on the last dinner? You know, use common sense.

rbj on July 15, 2012 at 6:04 PM

I agree with sharrukin up above.

I honestly do not have a problem with death row inmates being given a last meal of their choice prior to their execution. My problem is the conditions in which they live day after day, year after year, as they sit on death row.

Shump on July 15, 2012 at 6:36 PM

The push back was when a prisoner ordered a huge meal which he did not eat. Why shd the taxpayers incur the costs? Anyway, they shd eat what the other prisoners are served that day.

Blake on July 15, 2012 at 6:42 PM

No liver and Fava beans?

Too soon..?

Atlas on July 15, 2012 at 7:17 PM

I think he was hoping to die of indigestion.

scrubjay on July 15, 2012 at 7:21 PM

I do have a problem with this last meal nonsense…it’s obscene. Give them an extra serving of gruel and then put them down. Make their stay on Death Row so awful that they will beg for death.

ellifint on July 15, 2012 at 7:41 PM

Gack. It’s too hot to be thinking about all this buttery food.

J.E. Dyer on July 15, 2012 at 8:34 PM

The last meal thing has always struck me as a little odd. ‘Yes, we’re going to put you to death…but, on the plus side, you can eat whatever you want before. Sound good?’ something doesn’t compute there.

changer1701 on July 15, 2012 at 9:13 PM

The last meal thing has always struck me as a little odd. ‘Yes, we’re going to put you to death…but, on the plus side, you can eat whatever you want before. Sound good?’ something doesn’t compute there.

changer1701 on July 15, 2012 at 9:13 PM

You want a blindfold or a cigarette before we shoot you? Same thing. When you are going to kill a man, do it with some grace and a little charity.

sharrukin on July 15, 2012 at 9:26 PM

One of these things is not like the other. I have no problem with giving a good last meal before killing them. I do have a big problem with pampering them in prison. The conditions should be spartan, and the meals healthy, but frugal.

sharrukin on July 15, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Pretty much agreed with this. A luxurious last meal is fine as far as I’m concerned. My problem is more with the fifteen years of easy living they receive prior to that.

Gingotts on July 15, 2012 at 9:44 PM

the problem is that these useless wastes are kept alive for decades before being executed. so i basically could give one puck if they get their pizza and fried chicken buckets before being put down.grubs, worms and tepid water would be fine by me. just go through and read the feasts these malignancies get- fried shrimp, lobster, filet mignon- but i guess that’s the average EBT haul while the rest of us eat tuna casserole , mac n cheese and hamburger.

our priorities in the culture are screwed up. the money lavished on keeping death row inmates alive and in the plush needs to be redirected to the victims of their crimes. these guys get life long therapy and health care, a roof, bed, food and most of the mod cons. it’s a life of leisure at our expense. while the victims and their families are lucky if they get a few hundred bucks from the state. the devastation and loss-including financial loss- to victims of crime is something never ever addressed when speaking of the poor orange jump suited unfortunates who, if they got the death penalty, had to have committed a heinous murder or 2 or 3 or 40….

the green river killer was spared the death penalty because he agreed to help authorities find the remains of his victims. he stopped being helpful- (and it was like pulling teeth) after 4 bodies were recovered. then he just couldn’t recall anything more. he is thought to have killed up to 70 women- and most of those women left children behind. the state has to start taking care of victims like these orphaned children and not coddling and indulging the most vicious of killers. punishment needs to be put back in crime and punishment. it’s punishment not correction.

mittens on July 16, 2012 at 12:26 AM

I have no problem with a very generous last meal. I have no problem with comfortable (but not luxurious) quarters for people scheduled to die. But I think that so long as they have an appeal, or there is an appeal in their name, they should not have those privileges. They should be reserved for those who have a confirmed date with death.

njcommuter on July 16, 2012 at 2:25 AM

chinese way is best
1 bullet to brain then bill family for bullet
no last meal BS

losarkos on July 16, 2012 at 3:15 AM

The last meal thing has always struck me as a little odd. ‘Yes, we’re going to put you to death…but, on the plus side, you can eat whatever you want before. Sound good?’ something doesn’t compute there.

changer1701 on July 15, 2012 at 9:13 PM

It’s the kind of crap that happens when the state stops sticking to its job regarding criminality, which is justice, and gets into the mercy/grace/forgiveness/compassion business, which is religion’s/God’s realm…

Bizarro No. 1 on July 16, 2012 at 4:20 AM

Barack Obama has dreams of a meal such as this…

Michelle could not be reached for comment.

coldwarrior on July 16, 2012 at 5:42 AM

Does anyone know where this tradition came from? It sounds pretty goofy. Probably started as a joke or something.

Texas did away with it? They seem to be pretty heavy on common sense over there.

logis on July 16, 2012 at 8:20 AM

Irony alert: had the meal stimulated some kind of coronary reaction he would have been hospitalized and nursed back to health so they could execute him.

princetrumpet on July 16, 2012 at 9:20 AM

Death row inmates should be provided with the best possible last meal that their own money can buy.

Archivarix on July 16, 2012 at 9:31 AM

It’s a good thing that Michael Bloomberg didn’t know about this.

kozmocostello on July 16, 2012 at 9:59 AM

chinese way is best
1 bullet to brain then bill family for bullet
no last meal BS

losarkos on July 16, 2012 at 3:15 AM

Really, bill the family for the bullet? That’s just crass. That’s a classic staple of every modern totalitarian regime. It’s disgusting. A man on death row may be a monster wholly deserving of his fate, but that doesn’t make his family monsters deserving of such crass treatment. Grow up.

dczombie on July 16, 2012 at 10:26 AM

Michelle Obama is not going to be happy about this. A meal like that could kill him.

A couple of slices of balogna between two pieces of bread.

rbj on July 15, 2012 at 4:05 PM

You softie. Stale crusts of bread and water.

The Rogue Tomato on July 16, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Marines sometimes only get an MRE as their last meal (unbeknownst to them), murderers deserve far less but I’d be willing to give them that much.

StompUDead on July 16, 2012 at 12:06 PM

losarkos on July 16, 2012 at 3:15 AM

I’m currently reading “Mutiny” by Gindin & Hagberg. In one chapter, they write quite a lot about the “nine ounce solution” – a 9mm round to the back of the head. Interesting that Liberals who embrace so much Stalinism are reluctant to put the nine ounce solution into practice for criminals. I guess they only want to use that solution on those who disagree with them.

oldleprechaun on July 16, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Did they insist upon one wafer-thin mint at the end of his meal?

chelie on July 16, 2012 at 12:38 PM

One of these things is not like the other. I have no problem with giving a good last meal before killing them. I do have a big problem with pampering them in prison. The conditions should be spartan, and the meals healthy, but frugal.

sharrukin on July 15, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Completely agreed. I have no problem letting them have a little McDonald’s (or whatever they want within reason and maybe a price limit) as a last meal, but we ruin prison as a deterrent when we make it comfortable.

Really should be no TV and no A/C unless the heat becomes lethal and then only enough to keep them healthy. If they get bored, put them to work!

Esthier on July 16, 2012 at 2:36 PM


condemned men in prisons throughout the U.S. continue to eat a hearty meal before their date with the executioner—some heartier than others.

How about a compromise?: Any Death Row inmate can continue to receive the last meal of their choice…of any size.

However, it must fed to them by the family members of their victims…with the assistance of a long, pointed stick.

…See? Thats why i’m not in charge. LOL

BlaxPac on July 17, 2012 at 3:24 AM