Julia Ziegler-Haynes Recreates and Photographs Last Meals of Death Row Inmates

Julia Ziegler-Haynes Recreates and Photographs Last Meals of Death Row Inmates

The "last meal" is a well known segment of popular culture in the United States. We may not be all too familiar with the intricacies of capital punishment, but we all have heard of a last meal. Photographer and chef Julia Ziegler-Haynes found public records of last meal requests by executed inmates and meticulously recreated them in this series called "Today's Special."

Look, the death penalty is a complicated and difficult subject and any exploration from an artistic perspective is going to bring about some controversy. Though the last meal is well known, it doesn't remove the morbidity of the concept. These meals are what people decided to try and enjoy while they pondered the last few hours of their lives. To say these images are loaded would be an understatement. This series has 24 images, and I'm sure that number is not arbitrary.


To read the whole story of these images, check out the Huffington Post.

[Via HuffPost & Julia Ziegler-Haynes]

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48 Comments

Tobias Solem's picture

Somehow I find this so sad.

Yes, sad is the good word. Although-we must remember that those people ARE having this last meal for a reason...but yes, a bit sad.

Cybergabi's picture

"For a reason"? There should be no, absolutely no reason to deliberately take another person's life. I think this just shows the perversion of the US justice system which is based almost entirely on punishment. Who are we to punish anyone for what they did by taking their life? Shouldn't the purpose of justice be to make up for damage, and if that's not possible, to avoid further damage by protecting society from an evildoer or by rehabilitating him or her? 

Ian Ludwig's picture

"If it's wrong to kill, it's wrong to kill." Someone said that to me once when we were debating the death penalty and I had no response. I think what we have doesn't work but I don't know what the right answer is.

I read your phrase as "two wrongs don't make a right".  I get the feeling that's not how you read it.

Clean Record's picture

Are you that naive or do you just speak without understanding your own words?

"There should be no, absolutely no reason to deliberately take another person's life"

Yet, many if not all people on death row have committed murder, usually in the 1st degree, and usually to multiple people.

"Who are we to punish anyone for what they did by taking their life"

Who were the families of the people the inmates killed, to be punished with losing their loved ones for no reason?

"Shouldn't the purpose of justice be to make up for damage, and if that's not possible, to avoid further damage by protecting society from an evildoer or by rehabilitating him or her"

The damage is that people were killed unjustly, there is no recuperation for such a thing. Your choice is to either spend the time/money/resources to "rehab" a serial killer and hope that you somehow manage to re-wire the person so that they don't do it again. Or you can off the person so that he/she doesn't get another chance to do it again.

Do you think a good talking to is magically going to convert some serial killer into a functioning member of society? Then what happens when they get out there and repeat their offense and more people die unnecessarily because of your morality issues? Do they THEN get to die? Or do we keep giving them chances so they can keep killing more people?

If giving a serial killer a 2nd chance is a good idea to you, then I hope they decide to visit your house during their 2nd shot at the world.

Naive? Naive is assuming everyone who has been convicted of the death penalty will most certainly kill again or even committed the crime.

Keep a Clean Record, mate.  Know your shit.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-dpdpillinois-special,0,7409... 

Of course it really sad when stuff like that happens, but still no one has the right to take another persons life and especially not the government. Responding to violence with violence has never led to anything good and in most cases made things worse. "spend the time/money/resources to "rehab" a serial killer and hope that you somehow manage to re-wire the person so that they don't do it again." Yes! If a person gets killed on death row is much more expensive than to keep him in prison for the rest of his life. Just replace the word "serial killer" with mentally sick person. Mentally sick people need help and shouldn't just be killed.

Why not? Like I said below.....when you have a 6 year old girl raped, murdered and left in a canal near your home by some sick fuck, you start to re-think things.  I have a daughter and I can only imagine what these victims go through before they are killed by "mentally ill" people. I could give two shits if they are mentally ill. There is no benefit to anybody to keep them around...period.

"If giving a serial killer a 2nd chance is a good idea to you, then I hope they decide to visit your house during their 2nd shot at the world." And why would you ever wish someone to be killed???? Its kinda sad how some people think. 

And what help do the families of the victims get? What second chance to they get to see their daughterson again?  Do they get a second chance to rebuild a life forever tormented by what was done at the hands of these people?  Nobody ever seems to give a shit about the victims, just that the person who did it is treated fairly.....that is just sad.

2nd chance is not like "let them free and unpunished". Nobody said that.

 What you don't understand I guess is that it actually costs more money to execute someone on death row than to imprison them for life. This is due to excessive trial costs, appeals costs and red tape needed to perform said execution. That however is not my problem with the death penalty. How about the fact that although small, there is a percentage of inmates who are put to death and then later found to be innocent. I don't care how small the percentage is, if it is possible that we might be executing innocent people, then it should not be allowed.
Plus, it's A. more expensive, B. Hypocritical in the context of a society that claims to be modern and not barbarous, and C. not allowing any room for potential rehab - not all inmates on death row are massive evil serial killers by the way....

Well, the US is a democracy in the sense the power is to the people and they do have election and elect their representative in matter which even if sometimes raises questions is generally admitted as a democracy.
Then having a death penalty is the choice of the people of that country, I am not from their country but I respect their choice to run their own country the way they want.
Now one can be unhappy about what are the choice made by the majority of person in a democracy, but that's a regular debate that's why there are elections on a regular basis.
Now if a democracy is not good enough, as it doesn't tend to get the best out of the people, that would be an invention, one which is not invented yet.
With these kind of recurring debate and the crisis in Greece (where the people do not recognise the choice made by a previous government,  which is ironical in a place tht invented the concept in the first place), maybe we are looking at the end of Democracy,  for the greater good.

Of course we should but in the event of rehabilitation being impossible a quick, peaceful, and painless death is the most logical and guaranteed solution to ensure the criminal does not repeat their actions. It is not justice. It is not revenge. It is merely prevention. 

jason.kessenich's picture

Very heavy.  The images are great though.  I do like the different colored backgrounds.

its almost as metaphorical of personality of the person who eat those foods.

I find it so sad too. 

Sad... very sad... The food represents the personality of those how are about to die...!!!... The man that ask only for a olive!!.... Can you imagine what he was thinking?!

That's so sad. It's sad that no matter how much guilt, remorse, and regret those people will feel, simply because they can't undo the past, they have to die for it. And the mind is such a complicated thing. We've all done things, maybe not bad things, but simply things which we later on saw in a different perspective. We all do things that we don't even understand.

I don't think killing these people will solve the problems of why people do bad things.

I recognize three meals;  Hasting Arthur Wise, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Wayne Bagwell.

NONE of them expressed any remorse.  NONE of them admitted their guilt.

Read my post below and realize that these were three sadistic cruel killers.

First off, the images are not compelling at all.  As for the people knocking the death penalty.  I'll hear back from you when you have a child raped and murdered by some sick SOB.  There was one such incident in my community and I would love to personally administer the punishment myself if I had the opportunity.

Imho, like in an earlier post is said "If killing is bad, killing is bad" covers the load.
Life in prison without option of getting out would be better,..
Just without any luxery! no tv, nothing! 

Just one pil,... a pil with a deadly dose of something,... so if they'd like they can do it theirself,.. 

I live in the Netherlands,.. and punishment good be a lot harder, and life in prison should be more sober here!
But, when it comes to the deathpenalty,.. i'm glad we don't have that.

To explain a lil bit,... I DO NOT have any remorse for those killers !!!!!
It's just that in my eyes taking lifes is a bad thing, and belongs in the 1600's, not in this era!
It's nothing more than lowering yourself to the same degree as the killer,...

those pic make feel so sad, but in the other hand, there are hundreds of criminals on Cd Juarez Mexico, who should be sentenced to death, they kill, rape,extortion, assault, every day and government cant against them.  

This photos also brought out a sense of sadness being someone's last meal but then I remembered that these were for death row people. It's still sad nonetheless but what's even more sad looking back through them is the amount of food some of them got as a 'last meal' and that they still had more as a last meal than the homeless person who didn't have anything at all as their last. It's great to know more money is being spent on someone who's about to die than preventing a homeless person's death. 

John Godwin's picture

The most expensive meal in that picture can be bought for less than $100. You're saying that the American government spends less than $100 on homelessness? For your information, the homelessness budget for 2012 was $4 billion. Substantially more than all of the last meals in the history of the human race, multiplied by 10000

Condemned prisoners get a last meal because it is a symbolic truce, or pact, made between prisoner and executioner that peace has been made and no grudges are held. It's a tradition that is over 1000 years old. 

Mike Kelley's picture

John, you should know that I think you're my favorite commenter on this site.

John Godwin's picture

I have to be honest and say that I got nothing from these pictures. They don't mean anything without the backstory, and to me that makes them quite boring. 

Just in case anyone wondered, the olive shot was the last meal of Victor Faguer (sp?), the last man to be federally executed in the United States. (Before Mcveigh).

"They don't mean anything without the backstory, and to me that makes them quite boring. "

Can you see how silly this comment is or do you need it explained to you?

It's not silly, it's true. It's just food. Food without story.. is just .. food.

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