History of the Death Penalty, Executions, and Last Meals

History of the Death Penalty

The earliest record of a death penalty comes from King Hammaurabi of Babylon in the 18th century BC. The Romans, not to be outdone (the Romans were never to be outdone) implemented the death penalty as punishment “for all crimes.” According to deathpenaltyinfo.com, among the methods employed were “crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement. “

In Britain during the Tenth Century A.D., the death penalty was alive and well with hanging the usual method, but in the Eleventh Century William the Conqueror abolished this form of punishment except in times of war. Such largess would not last however, as Henry the VIII took rule in the Sixteenth Century. You know King Hank. He's the one who had his wives beheaded if they failed to give him a son, and they were queens. You can imagine what punishments a normal citizen faced, 72,000 of them. Methods of execution included “boiling, burning at the stake, hanging, beheading, and drawing and quartering.” Some offenses targeted were not only the usual treason, but refusing to confess to a crime and marrying a Jew. (Hey, some of my best friends are Jews.) Over the next two centuries, crime increased and the crimes of stealing, cutting down a tree and stealing a rabbit from a warren were added to the list of crimes punishable by death.

In America, the first record of the death penalty is recorded as taking place in Jamestown in 1608, and the first execution was that of Captain George Kendall for treason. In 1612, Sir Thomas Dale, governor of Virgina added stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians. It got worse. In 1865, the New York Colony added the crimes of striking one's mother or father or denying the 'true God,' a practice many religious zealots would like to employ today.

Objections to the death penalty, either in toto or in scope, date back to the founding fathers when Thomas Jefferson tried to revise Virginia''s use of it. The bill was defeated by one vote. In 1794, Pennsylvania repealed the death penalty for all offenses except first degree murder. (Bohm, 1999; Randa, 1997; and Schabas, 1997).

Executions were a public spectacle, and in 1834 Pennsylvania was the first state to remove them from the public eye. Shortly thereafter, in 1836, Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes except treason. Later, the death penalty was abolished completely by Wisconsin and Rhode Island. By the end of the century, the world would see the countries of Venezuela, Portugal, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Brazil and Ecuador follow suit. (Bohm, 1999 and Schabas, 1997).

In the 1900s to the present, issues related to legal executions has ebbed and flowed, and laws have been rewritten and changed and changed back again.

Texas electric chair used until 1954.
Texas electric chair used until 1954.

The Death Penalty Worldwide

The Resolution Supporting Worldwide Moratorium on Executions was passed by the United Nations in 1999. This calls on countries which have not abolished the death penalty to at least restrict its use. Ten countries, including the United States, China, Pakistan, Rwanda and Sudan voted against the resolution, (New York Times). Hmmm. The United States is keeping some interesting company.

In Japan, "Capital punishment has been unofficially scrapped...with the appointment of a left-wing justice minister who is an outspoken opponent of the country’s controversial system of secret executions." (The Times - United Kingdom, Sept 19, 2009)  Previously, prisoners were given only a few hours warning of execution by hanging. Family members were informed after the fact. Amnesty international called Japan's policy "utterly cruel."  It is not official.

"Japan is the only industrialized democracy, apart from the United States, to maintain capital punishment."

While the death penalty is alive and well in the U.S., the numbers have diminished with 300 in 1998 to 143 in 2003. More than half the international communities have abolished it either completely or defacto. However, over 78 countries retain the death penalty. (Amnesty International, 2004)


Chinese execution van.
Chinese execution van.

Methods of Execution

Currently, countries worldwide employ several methods of carrying out executions, including firing squad, hanging, stoning, lethal injection, beheading, crucifixion, and electrocution.

China traditionally used a bullet to the back of the head to carry out death sentences, but has recently introduced mobile killing vans and lethal injections to execute condemned prisoners in an effort to be less offensive to Western sensibilities.

Executions in Iran are usually carried out by hanging. Most countries using this method employ the long drop method, which when used correctly results in the immediate loss of consciousness. Iran however, uses the suspension method, such as forcing a prisoner to stand on a box and kicking it out from under him. This is in order to prolong the suffering of the condemned. It the execution is public, the prisoner is often hoisted by a telescopic crane so everyone can see. Sometimes the body is left for hours.

In mid-1999, Amnesty compiled a list of countries employing the death penalty and the methods of carrying the sentences out.

An Ohio man requested a single black olive.
An Ohio man requested a single black olive.

Last Meal History

The history of last meals is difficult to ascertain, but most governments employing the death penalty subscribe to the practice of offering a last meal. Traditionally, last meals were granted by ancient Greeks, Chinese, Egyptians and Romans. In pre-modern Europe, the tradition is deeply rooted in superstition. When the condemned accepted a last meal it symbolized making peace with the executioner, judge, jury, and witnesses, and furthermore, prevented the executed from returning as a ghost to haunt those responsible.

Mississippi gas chamber.
Mississippi gas chamber.

Actual Last Meals

Thinking that anything at all can be requested and served to the prisoner couldn't be further from the truth. You won't find any truffles or foie gras being served. Actual parameters and restrictions vary from state to state, but tobacco is most often denied and alcohol is always off limits. Texas limits last meals to food available within the prison system, though they occasionally allow food from “the free world." Florida imposes a $40 spending limit, and the Federal Government employs a frugal $20 maximum. Maryland doesn't offer a last meal at all. Some states impose no spending limits - California, for example - which is usually not an issue since most prisoners order fast food.

The following true examples illustrate the types of meals commonly requested – with a few truly odd ones – which tell us something about the prisoners who requested them.

JOHN WASHINGTON HIGHTOWER - GEORGIA

Four fried pork chops, collard greens with boiled okra and "boiling meat", fried corn, fried fatback, fried green tomatoes, cornbread, lemonade, one pint of strawberry ice cream and three glazed donuts.

EPHEMERA: He passed on the opportunity for a minister to pray for him.

JIMMY DALE BLAND – OKLAHOMA

Hot and spicy chicken breast, two slices of sausage pizza with extra cheese, a slice of German chocolate cake, a pint of French vanilla ice cream and a Dr. Pepper.

EPHEMERA: He was terminally ill and had less than a year to live anyway.

CALVIN SHULER – SOUTH CAROLINA

One T-bone steak, well done with A-1 Steak sauce, baked potato, french fries, grape drink and chocolate cake.

EPHEMERA: Shuler made no final statement, however, he kept his eyes locked on a man Corrections Department officials said was his spiritual adviser. "Amen, amen, my brother," the adviser said to Shuler, then hummed softly as the execution was carried out.

GILBERTO REYES – TEXAS

BBQ turkey legs and BBQ brisket, a bowl of cheddar cheese and avocados.

EPHEMERA: With a big grin on his face, Reyes, had a brief final statement, "I love y'all and I'm going to miss y'all," he said, smiling,

MARVELLOUS KEENE - OHIO

Porterhouse steak with A-1 sauce, a pound of jumbo fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, french fries and onion rings with ketchup, dinner rolls and butter, two plums, a mango, a pound of seedless white grapes, German chocolate cake, two bottles of Pepsi and two bottles of A&W cream soda.

DANIEL WILSON - OHIO

A well-done porter house steak with steak sauce, a baked potato with sour cream and bacon bits, salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, green peppers, carrots and French dressing, corn on the cob with butter, grapes, macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls and Cool Ranch Doritos with a jar of salsa, strawberry ice cream and strawberry cheesecake--both with real strawberries, a 2-liter of Dr. Pepper with ice and one tea bag.

EPHEMERA: Many people believe ordering a steak well-done is a crime in itself.

THOMAS GRASSO - OKLAHOMA

One 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.

EPHEMERA: Prison officials had substituted real spaghetti and meatballs in place of the canned product. His last words included, “"I did not get my Spaghetti-O's. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this!"

GERALD MITCHELL - TEXAS

One bag of assorted Jolly Ranchers.

EPHEMERA: He really liked Jolly Ranchers.

WALTER LAGRAND - ARIZONA

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 finally, four Rolaids.

EPHEMERA: He did not get heartburn.

ROBERT BUELL - OHIO

A single black, unpitted olive.

EPHEMERA: Buell was paying homage to to Victor Ferguer, the last prisoner executed by the federal government until Timothy McVeigh. Ferguer's last meal was an olive with the pit still in it. He told prison officials that he hoped an olive tree would sprout from his body -- a sign of peace. His unmarked grave in a barren corner of a public cemetery bears no olive tree.

Whatever can be learned from examining last meals is best left to professionals, but it does appeal to our morbid curiosity. Does it say anything about criminals in general? And what you and I, as individuals order for a last meal? We can all hope that we don't ever have to make that decision.

(Sources: Last Suppers; Famous Last Meals from Death Row,Ty Treadwell & Michelle Vernon, Loompanics Unlimited; Encyclopedia II, deadmaneating.blogspot.com; Wikipedia.

Are you for death penalty?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting

Would you throw the switch on an execution?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Depends. Is it John and Kate?
See results without voting

f you were imprisoned, it would be because of...

  • Murder
  • Attempted Murder
  • Jaywalking
  • I'm innocent, I tell ya'!
See results without voting

More by this Author


Comments 76 comments

Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Wow!!! (x10) This is quite a veer for you, and it's well done! This is a tough subject you've chosen! But I think King Hank was a bit of a jerk and from what I've heard he was also rather smelly. I wouldn't pull the switch even for John and Kate, tho there are others I would reconsider. Glad to see you writing again! Hugs!!!!


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Very informative. Great to see you back Christoph! Those Ephemeras are so you! :)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia

Hey what a coincidence eh.?

Hmm grim sort of subject for sure.

Just a small story. When I was driving cabs many years ago.

I drove a reporter to the last Execution held in my state here in Victoria. There were thousands of people protesting to stop the hanging, but to no avail.

When the reporter arrived back at the car he was like a sheet and heaved his insides out.

Having said that I personally believe that there is good argument to have a death penalty.


Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Came back to say hello! Looks like Ag was so excited to see you he hit "enter" twice! LOLOL!!


Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 6 years ago from Ohio

Great job on this Christoph...the last meals part was disturbing. Thanks. :)


bingskee profile image

bingskee 6 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

disturbing to know the last meals but also interesting. :-)


ralwus 6 years ago

I really liked this but why so many from my state? LOL Has that olive pit even had time to sprout yet? Seems like it would have a hard time breaking through the vault anyway. That first question on your poll confused me so I voted no. It didn't seem to matter anyway. LOL


ralwus 6 years ago

I need to clarify my no vote. I mean no, I am against the death penalty. I mean God already sentenced us all for Eve taking that dam apple. Why should I die, No God I am against the death penalty for anyone.


B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 6 years ago from Hell, MI

Hmm, I think for my last meal, I would order a gallon of chicken broth and a fork.

Another informative (if not a bit dark) hub from Christoph the great!


Pachuca213 6 years ago

I have to agree with Ralwus on that! The death penalty has been around since adam and eve and also the first mass death penalty execution was in fact the FLOOD of Noahs day! But all in all I enjoyed the information you provided in this hub...its very interesting!

I myself never could understand how they could inflict such horrible deaths instead of something simple like a gun shot to the head, but in early history it seemed to be Hanging, Beheading or the Iron Maiden....too much pain! OUCH!!! I don't like the death penalty but lethal injection seems to be the most humane. You just fall asleep....


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Candie: Hiya! Not what I intended to write at all. I was just going to list some last meals and make jokes about them, but that changed and this is what came out. Thanks for checking it out, in spite of the grim subject matter.

Shalini: Nice to see you, as always. As mentioned in my comment above, originally this was supposed to be mostly just the "elphemera" - you know, smart ass glib comments like I do, but...oh well.

Ag: That's an interesting story. Like you, I thought there were instances where it was justified, but I'm not sure anymore. I certainly didn't think I'd change anyone's opinion, especially my own. I think the article remains neutral, but the facts alone sort of speak for themselves. Here is the kicker for me. With the exception of Australia, the rest of the countries are the worst for human rights. Sort of a list of the places I would never want to be, and I don't like being in any club that has them as a member.

Thanks for the comment and the interesting story!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Tom Cornett: Thanks for reading it, Tom. It's interesting that you found the "Last meals" the disturbing part.

Bingskee: Thank you for reading in spite of it's troubling subject matter. I appreciate it.

Ralwus: Your from Ohio I take it. You know, I expected that the most would come from Texas. All I did was pick out the ones that I found most interesting (they all start to seem the same after awhile) so I guess the only explanation I have is that the prisoners in Ohio order more interesting last meals than elsewhere. Also, this information isn't available for most states, so it's limited to the 4 or 5 states that make the info public. I don't know if the olive tree has had time to sprout yet, but is it even in a conducive climate? Still, if it was magical...

I was for it in some circumstances, but now I'm not so sure. Thanks!

Ralwus:


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

BT: Ha, ha! Funny. What kind of statement would that make? I thought you would've said raw carrots or something, or at least butter tarts! I honestly can't decide what I would order. Thanks for hopping by!

Pachuca: I agree about the gunshot to the head. Seems like the best, but anything that sounds "messy", we don't like.

I've always thought that the guillotine would be the best way to go. Again, the visual image is horrific (and it's the visual image that troubles us), it would be absolutely instantaneous. No pain, but noooOOOOoooo. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Christoph, I really liked this hub a lot. I like all your hubs, you're a good writer and choose interesting subjects. I had a little prob. with the 1st poll: Are you for or against the death penalty, yes or no...I mean, what? It could be, are you FOR the death penalty, yes or no; or, it could be, are you AGAINST the death penalty, yes or no, but really...it can't be both, or the answers aren't responsive. Might wanna fix that!

'Nough said. The last supper bit was the most entertaining, in sort of a gruesome way. I don't think I'd be too hungry, if I was one of those poor misbegotten souls.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Paradise7: Thanks for pointing that out. You're absolutely correct and it has been changed. Appreciated.

Also, thanks for the compliments, the comment, and taking the time to read it. Gracias!


mayhmong profile image

mayhmong 6 years ago from North Carolina

I be long dead if I was born back in the old days! And I thought my parents were strict?!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Mayhmong: I'm sure they would have gotten it for something. Ha! Thanks for the comment.


Cheeky Chick profile image

Cheeky Chick 6 years ago

If I had to choose, I'd rather have a gunshot to the head than to be boiled, burned, quartered, or hung. Sure, it's messy, but at least I won't be doing the clean up!

As a soft-hearted liberal, you'd think I'd be against the death penalty, but on this issue, I'm firmly for it. With the forensic science we have today, we are much better at determining who committed the crime. So, if we know who did it, why foot the bill for that criminal's room and board leaving a chance that he/she might get loose? I feel for the victims...let them have closure.

I also find it interesting that the last meals were the disturbing part for some of your readers. Things that make me say, "Hmmmmm".

As always, I enjoyed your hub. You are a great writer!


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia

Chris, just to clarify the situation in Australia.

We DO NOT have the death penalty in any state.

And no candie V it was not Chistoph but your Little Red Riding Hood that got me excited LOL


B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 6 years ago from Hell, MI

Statement? I'm thinkin that broth and a fork says "I know where I'm headed, and I'm in no hurry to get there!"


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 6 years ago from California Gold Country

Interesting facts-- especially about the meals. Some are Sooo healthful, and some are "what the h*ll".

Oddly-- none would probably be digested.

I think, on the same circumstances, I would not have an appetie.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Cheeky: I agree with the gunshot, but I'd still go with the guillotine if it was available. I would say I'm pretty much a liberal (not on all issues) and I too was for the death penalty. I'm just not sure anymore. I agree with you here as well though, why should we foot the bill? At the very least, our prisons are way too cushy.

Thank you again for reading and your kind words. I have only recently started to become active on HP and I most definitely owe you a visit! Thanks!

AG: Thanks for the clarification. Obviously I read some old or incorrect information somewhere. Fortunately, it's not in the article and the link to the Amnesty Intl. list does NOT have Australia on it. But you used to? Or did you live somewhere else when you drove the guy to the execution?

And darn it, I thought for sure it was me that got you excited! Ha!

Evilpants: I see it now. Very good! Of course, they don't give you all the time in the world to let you eat your last meal, but why quibble over minor details.

Rochelle: I wonder if I would have an appetite or not. Now that you mention it, that's a real possibility. Maybe I'd ask for a bottle of Pepto? Thank you for your comment!


lyricsingray 6 years ago

You aced this one my friend - what a fantastic Hub, and better yet so well written, Thanks for sharing it with us,Kimberly


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Lyricsingray: Thank you so much for your kind words. It is much appreciated. Glad you liked it!


Am I dead, yet? 6 years ago

Once again, a very controversial topic written with such finesse as only you can write it Christoph! Thank you for writing again, and I hope all is well with you and yours.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Am I Dead Yet: Thank you so much, and my best wishes back to you and yours. Nice to see you!


Janetta 6 years ago

Chris you sneaky boy--you got one in there I didn't see! Oh well, better late then never is what I always say--

just a couple comments, since as you know, i don't like to speak up much ;)

1. the pics of the electric chair and gas chamber gave me the willies

2. I love that Florida has a spending limit and it isn't even all that high really. I can just see a guard in full uniform at the supermarket when the teller says "ok that'll be $40.87" Uhoh better put back the olives...

3. The guy that ordered the eggs and bacon had to have been planning that one out for a while. 16 pcs that is too funny and a hell of a lot of bacon. They should've just waited a couple hours, he'd probly have died of a hearattack anyway...

4. I think if I were sitting on deathrow I would ordered something that took a while to cook like smoked pork butt. That way I'd have a little more time lol


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Good to see you back in my mailbox. Yikes, I would think if someone knows they are going to be executed they wouldn't have an appetite. Enjoyed your scary bears hub!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Hi Janetta! Always a pleasure! Yeah, those pictures are creepy to be sure. There's also a sort of depraved architecture about them that is at once captivating and horrible.

I wonder what Florida would do if they went over by such a small amount. They'd probably eliminate something from the request, but not the Spaghetti O's! Never forget the Spaghetti O's!

That IS a lot of bacon, and I think you're right. METHOD OF EXECUTION: Slow hardening of the arteries.

I still don't know what I'd order. It might be Prime Rib or 24 White Castle Double Cheeseburgers. Depends on my mood.

As always, your comment is welcomed and a joy to read. Much thanks!

Violet Sun: I might be too nervous to eat too, but I'd order as much as I could get away with just to be a nuisance! Thanks so much for reading! Glad you enjoyed it.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

I don't believe in capitol punishment, yet at the same time I find it highly offensive that prisons have become big business and what it costs to house one prisoner obscene. Great hub and loved the quizzes.


Hxprof 6 years ago from Clearwater, Florida

This piece was very well written. You covered a lot of turf in a relatively brief piece.

I used to be very much for the death penalty, but now am against it. The possibility, however remote, of executing an innocent person is too much for me to handle.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Jerilee: I was for it, no question, but am wavering now. Researching it - making it more personal - has made me rethink my position. On the one hand, you have people who have done these horrible, despicable things, and then the cost of housing them, the relatively cushy confines of our prisons and their instigating lawsuits from prison, when I think with the nature of their crimes they have forfeited their right to live. On the other, when I see that we're the only civilized (in my opinion) country still doing it...I just don't like being in the same club as them. Thanks for your visit.

Hxprof: You have a valid point and it does still happen. On the other hand, we go to war for no valid reason and thousands of innocent people die. Peripheral damage. Thanks for your comment.


pgrundy 6 years ago

Wow. This was so well written and so disturbing. Especially the last meal part. It really brings it home.

I have mixed feelings about the death penalty. They get the wrong guy so often that I feel like it shouldn't be used for that reason alone, but in the case of true monsters like Charles Manson or Jeffrey Dahmer I wonder why we keep them alive. We know they did these things and would do them again and they aren't sorry--serial killers like that, I don't know. If Someone close to me was killed by such a person, I don't know but that I'd do it myself. I hate to admit that, but I think I would.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Hi Pam. I was for it, no question, but researching this has put me on the fence. I agree with you though about guys like Dahmer and Manson: I'd push the button too...or pull the lever or whatever it is. Plus there are lots more equally horrific who aren't famous but just as depraved.

Nice to see you. Thank you for your comment!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Execellent information, Christoph, on the death penalty and executions. The details of the last meals are especially interesting. Capital punishment is simply barbaric. Slowly, but surely, the world is beginning to acknowledge that fact. I have linked this great hub to mine on the same subject: http://hubpages.com/politics/Ask-Not-for-Whom-the-...


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

William: Thank you very much. Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I think more and more, people are coming to the same conclusion as you. Perhaps more states banning them will come soon.

Thank you for the link. Always appreciated. Thank you also for the comment!


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 6 years ago

Christoph,

The death penalty is a joke. My thought is, if you are sentenced to die, it needs to happen within 7 days. No appeals. Not 20 years later and no commutation allowed. Put the guilty in a 40 ft. cement hole in the middle of the desert and let them die a slow and painful death. It would save a ton of money as we wouldn't have to house, clothe, feed or educate them.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Trish: You raise some good points. The expense of keeping a prisoner in prison is astronomical, and it is so drawn out these days we spend a lot on them, not to mention the cost of endless appeals. Top it off with prisoners suing from prison...it really is enough to make one throw up their hands in disgust. As long as we are still finding people in prison who are innocent - as proven by current DNA technology - their will be objections to expediency.

Hope all is well with you, Trish. Thanks for the comment!


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

Im one day new to this hubpages site and i picked this article to read first. I am a reporter from Ohio who was at the last scheduled execution. The execution that was botched. Since interning at the Cincinatti Enquirer I became enthralled with executions and the death penalty due to all of the inside stories my boss would tell me of the cases he had investigated and covered. Buel being one of them.I always wondered why he ordered the olive so thanks for that info. I used to think as your commenter,Trish,thinks. That comment was disturbing to read, not your article. Ohio has become a killing field.I dont want my state murdering for me. Why do we as a people allow our government to murder for us. Once we murder the condemned do we finally feel better that they killed our loved one and our grieving stops? Does it make our pain go away? If it does, then what shallow people we are. If it doesn't, then why mark our own souls with murder? Prisons were initially built to house murderers, to keep them locked away from society. Yet we have turned them into housing units for drug dealers, prostitutes, blacks and the poor. Shame on us.I had the privilage to attend a lecture given by Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead man walking, last month. I encourage all to listen to her by googling her name or read her books. It sickens me to my stomach to think i belong to a human race that would rather we kill someone then to throw a couple of bucks of our tax money to permanently keep them from society, especially not knowing if they are really innocent or what the circumstances were behind the killing. Oh how we are quick to judge. Thank God Trish wasn't living during the Salem witch trials or any of us. We might all be hanging from trees. Thank you for bringing up awareness and Im sorry this is so longwinded.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

lisadpreston: Very nice to see you here. I can certainly understand how your opinion could change, considering your personal experience and study on the matter. Mine was altered just from researching this article, and I'm not sure where I stand any longer. Easy to be against it on principle - and I am - and yet there are some truly horrible people who do very heinous things.

Anyway, you raise many good points. The expense required to house them could more than be compensated for by letting the marijuana offenders go, along with the others you mention. No more overcrowding. Unfortunately, running prisons is now big business in the hands of third parties; I'm sure they don't want less prisons.

Long winded? Never. It was a pleasure to have you leave your thoughts and I look forward to reading your work. Thank you!


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

Thank you so much for reading and responding to my comment.It is 3 a.m. and i have been engrossed in your other articles and comments. You are an excellent writer and I love your humor. Have you written a book? If not you should. Im still laughing from the early bird catching the worm story. But to get serious again on the death penalty issue............

Im not saying that we shouldn't be tough on crime. However, what kind of messege are we sending when we say Murder is wrong yet we turn right around and Murder them back for murdering? Its like when i see parents hit their kids for hitting another kid. Or a kid bites another kid and the parent bites the kid for biting. A primitive example, none the less I have seen this happen. This sends a double hypocritical messege to children and our government sends out double hypocriticle messeges to our citizens. Maybe the government could be the adult and take the lead and show us that we are not a barbaric society and invest in our children and in mental health so that people dont have to commit crimes.I think all murders are linked to poverty. If we could get to the root problem of why people murder and invest in the prevention of it we as a whole would be better off. Lets face it, we dont want to be victims of these murderous acts. No problem is ever solved by only looking at the surface. Lets be civilized and dig deep to find root causes and solve or work to solve problems of crime. You know, Almost all of the death row inmates are seriously mentally ill. According to law, we are not allowed to execute mentally ill people. But we do. A recent execution that i had to investigate and report on was Fautenberry. He had physical brain damage from being beaten in the head as a child. He had his head squashed while in the navy. We housed him in prison for 20 years but we wouldn't spend the money to have an expert come in to verify his unfakable physical brain damage? This is disgraceful. And he was executed. There are many more facts concerning this case that i wont go into. I met a man at the lecture by Sister Helen Prejean who had spent 20 years on death row to finally be exonerated and his pleas of innocence found to be true. Thank goodness he wasn't thrown in a 40ft. hole in the desert after 7 days. He is one among many who are wrongfully accused. The innocence Project is freeing innocent people in record numbers based on DNA proof. So I guess we self righteous dolly do gooders who secretly have our own vices arent perfect in our judgement after all. And by the way, WHO MADE US GOD TO DECIDE IF SOMEONE SHOULD LIVE OR NOT? wHO IN THE HELL DO WE THINK WE ARE? What a person does is not always who he is at his core being. No man truly knows the heart of another man and why isn't George Bush and Cheney getting executed for all the murders they committed? Oh thats right, they justify it by putting the word war in front of it. Murder is murder damn it. There are no big sins and little sins. Right is right and wrong is wrong.Oh Jeez, Im stopping now lest i stray into an area i dont want to go in. In summation All of the worlds problems could be fixed if we would do one thing. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Think about it. Because in reality, Thy neighbor is thyself. Keep up the good work, you are a beautiful soul.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America

This is an interesting article that kept me engaged from first to last word. The methods of punishment and last meals are fascinating.

Considering the death penalty, I think that all child sex molesters should be executed, quickly. Such a crime in parts of Nigeria is still known, according to my contacts, only as one of the Abominations, for which immediate execution has been the penalty. I agree with them.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Lisa: Thanks for all the compliments - the biggest of all is that you're reading my stuff. I haven't been published (so to speak, but have written things that have been produced on the stage, Industrial Films, and NPR. But nothing that was just my writing. I think that's about to change, though. I've recently gotten an agent - of sorts - and am hoping something positive comes from it.

Allowing that executions are a fact, at the very least I think it's inexcusable that mentally ill people are executed, and no one should go to the chamber (or whatever) without a full barrage of a barrage of DNA work using the latest advances. Here's something that has always pissed me off no end: When someone is proven innocent by DNA after they've been convicted, the prosecutor never wants to let the person off or admit they were wrongly convicted. They've just got to keep that notch on their bedpost. To me, this is not only reprehensible but arrogant and monomaniacal.

Thanks for the follow-up!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Child Molestation is the single biggest factor that keeps me on the fence instead of being totally against. Nothing sickens my heart more than the molestation or abuse of children...and animals - I don't know what that says about me. Something about those unable to defend themselves I guess.

Thanks for the comment!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America

I like the fact that Erle Stanley Gardner and some associates began the Court of Last Resort group that helped reopen the cases of the wrongly convicted in the 1950s, and that this has become a major activity of many criminology and law classes today. And with DNA evidence, hopefully fewer of the innocent are condemned to imprisonment and death.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Yes, and the Innocence Project and Barry (what's his name) are doing good work in that area as well.


Mrs. Obvious profile image

Mrs. Obvious 6 years ago from Northern California

I am totally for the death penalty. God demonstrated in the bible that He allows each country the right to have and enforce laws, just as He enforces his own law with the punishment of death and an eternity without Him if we do not accept His plan for redemption from our sin, which is Jesus Christ. Anyways, I hate housing criminals for umpteen years at a stretch, especially those who deserve to die for taking anothers life or molesting children and raping women. The last two on that list may not be dead, but they will live the rest of their life just trying to get over it. I believe that non-violent criminals should be given huge fines instead of prison terms. That way at least they are literally paying for the crime and not winning free room and board from our stupid system. And to the people who say, "what if they are innocent?" I say that even if some are accidentally killed for crimes they didn't really commit, isn't their life over anyway by the time the had to spend 20yrs in prison just to convince some judge they aren't guilty? If our legal system actually made more sense, (like admitting into evidence new DNA as soon as it is discovered) then we could avoid scenarios like that. By the way, its not like we are putting to death people who steal rabbits like in the past. We are talking about dangerous, hardened, nasty, criminals who wouldn't think twice about killing you!


Pachuca213 6 years ago

I would have to disagree with Mrs. Obvious.... giving the death penalty to people is the easy way out of it,as the bible states An eye for an eye, in the end God is the ultimate equalizer.....I do agree that non violent offenders should pay for the crime instead of a free ride in the institutionalized system. But your remark about giving up on the ones who may be killed by accident because of being wrongfully convicted, is wrong. You cannot ever give up on someones fight for freedom, if they are innocent it is better to fight it all the way to the last breath than to give up...and frankly Mrs Obvious if it was you or your kids on death row (by mistake) I am sure you would be having a different opinion about the whole thing.....


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Mrs. Obvious: I'm sure many share your opinion. It's too "cut and dried" for my taste however, and for me, religion doesn't enter into my considerations. Thanks for the comment.

Pachuca: I agree that no innocent person should go to prison, and people really aren't considered "innocent until proven guilty" as we are taught, but rather the other way around. I hardly think a person in prison for possession of marijuana considers it a "free ride," but instead a gross injustice - which it is. It's a complicated issue. Thank you for your comment!


upal19 profile image

upal19 6 years ago from Dhaka

Very informative. Thanks for this effort.


upal19 profile image

upal19 6 years ago from Dhaka

waiting for more from you.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

upal19: Thank you for the comment.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

I wonder if I am alone in imagining being sentenced to death and all that goes with it including the contents of my last meal...a wondering like that of standing on a cliff and being both repulsed and drawn to the idea of jumping off. A macabre thought, but you wrote on a macabre subject.

Just to add to the excellent research that went into this Hub is the recent decision (September of this year) in Japan to suspend capital punishment, a decision probably effected by the publicity engendered by Amnesty International's charge that Japan's capital punishment system is worse than inhumane.

Welcome back to writing on HP. We've missed you.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Hi Sally: I wondered if you would come back to comment. Some won't read it due to the subject matter. Understandable. I certainly wonder those things as well--last meal, etc.--and I can honestly say researching this has changed my opinion. It is such a complicated issue.

I didn't know about Japan. I'll look into it and add it in as that is important, so thanks for bringing that to my attention.

It was nice to publish something here after so long (I'm sure you know the feeling.) The next one will be light and hopefully funny.

I appreciate your comment, as you know. Hope you are will. Thank you!


Mit Kroy profile image

Mit Kroy 6 years ago from Georgia,USA

Good research on this.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Mit Kroy: Thank you.


Jess Killmenow profile image

Jess Killmenow 6 years ago from Nowheresville, Eastern United States

Such an awesome, information-packed, thought provoking article. And the resulting comments! Great stuff, Christoph!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Jess: Thank you for the kind words. It is appreciated. Thanks!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Genius as always Christoph, and clearly this has provoked intense debate. For what it is worth, I do believe in the death penalty, but only in the cases where the evidence such as DNA is irrefutible. I don't see why tax payers should fund the long term imprisonment of a person who had no qualms about taking another's life (when the evidence is clearly there that they did). And yes, in the event a person had raped or killed a child,or my parents, or had tortured an animal mercilessly, I would have no problem at all in pushing the button, or pulling the lever that ended their miserable existence, after all, if you have a mad dog that attacks people you put it to sleep without any questions asked!

I actually stated on local radio recently that I would have no qualms on pulling the lever to kill someone like this, and I told the story of my radio interview in a recent hub about my "Nightmare Radio Interview" if you are interested. I guess I might have shocked the other guests on the same show with my strong opinions though ;)


Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid

Howdo, Chris! Very informative and, to me, very disturbing. I was actually a bit distressed to see the results of the first question in your poll. I admit that sometimes I would like to wring someone's neck for what they did, but thinking about wanting to do that and actually doing it are two different things. Besides, as an individual, I may have personal inclinations, shall we say, but that a state erects itself as executioner.... I just can't find a justification for that. Plus, they get the wrong person so often that it gives me the creeps.

Oh, and the bit about last meals with a budget? That was the last drop, so to speak. Kudos to you!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Misty: I have no problem believing you shocked the other radio guests. I would expect nothing less than you saying exactly what you think and damn the torpedoes, so to speak. I must say I share your sentiments regarding who has given up their right to live by their heinous actions. And yes, I include animal torturers. For some reason, I find this the lowest form of heinous. Something about animals just doing what they are supposed to do and often are unable to defend themselves. Of course it extends to children especially. I think the questions I have recently formed come more from the government deciding the issue, jury of their peers notwithstanding.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

Elena: Hello Elena. Yes, it disturbed me to write it, and before I was for it, no doubts about it. But it began to trouble me and now I don't know where I stand. I think you've come very close to describing what my misgivings are. Yes, I personally think some people have given up their right to live in our society and their execution is deserved, but I'm not the one who gets to decide--and yet I am the only one who should decide. (I'm only half joking there.) I mean that others--jury and state--do not use my criteria. I have said in other comments that what is very troubling to me is that America and Japan (which is currently in a moratorium on executions, and China, known as an abuser of human rights, if you count them) are the only countries that do it except backwards, cruel, ugly countries. I don't like being aligned with them on anything. So our method is humane? Boy, that's a mighty fine line people are drawing so they can feel better about it.

I appreciate your heartfelt comment. Thank you!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

I'm glad you had the courage to research and write this article. The horrible reality that it still exists in America means that someone has to be a killer paid by the government. I remember reading "The Chamber" by John Grisham and feeling a chill. The film was even worse. Excellent work,Christoph.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Gypsy: How interesting that you would cite that novel, as I just read it a few weeks ago. While doing the research, I was surprised at some of the facts, and it actually changed my opinion. Thank you for your comment!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Great Hub, Christoph. Thanks for sharing the info. I amj totally and unequivocally against the death penalty - I believe it just further brutalises a brutal society with any deterrence or other social good. In fact most research points to the fact that it costs more to execute a prisoner than to keep them alive. It does no good at all kill a person, or to commit judicial murder. It will not stop murders or violence of any kind.

Thaks again

Love and peace

Tony


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis Author

Tony: I always had zero tolerance for murder, especially senseless and brutal. But researching this has caused me to reconsider my former unequivocal views regarding the death penalty.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Christoph, once more an excellent piece of work. Your undoubted talent is inspiring :-)


Writer of Man profile image

Writer of Man 5 years ago from United Kingdom

This was a great read. I learned a lot from this. I have just finished a review of Private Peaceful which I found very sad and about how innocent people get executed so it fit. Thanks. I voted you up.


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 5 years ago from St. Louis Author

De Greek: How I missed your comment, I don't know. Thanks!

Writer of Man: Glad you enjoyed it and took the time to comment.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Just a (relatively) newcomer catching up on some reading, here. This is excellent...I really like your humor...When I laugh aloud while reading, it's beyond funny. Have read just a couple of your hubs, but enough to know I need to follow you!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 4 years ago from St. Louis Author

fpherj48 -Thank you for the kind and encouraging words. Thanks for reading.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

AND...THANK YOU for the lovely fan Mail........where do I send the autograph?


Shaon Ray McDougall 4 years ago

I have always been a strong believer in the death penalty. The way I look at it if a person is going to kill someone then he should pay the consequences a life for a life, an eye for n eye. Ok they kill people and are on death row for 15 years if they take a life why should they be spared theirs.


Sharon McDougall 4 years ago

Iam a great believer in the death penalty. Hn I read about Danny Hembree who is on death row for killing a 17 year old girl writes in paper about all his privileges to me they shouldn't be allowed them because you're in there for a reason, for murder. I know they have only so much time to live. They take a families loved one's life and they are living the lap of luxury on death row to me it shouldn't happen, they punished a family so the y should be punished also. So in answer to your question yes Iam a great believer in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.


hhh 4 years ago

heheheheehehe


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I am not believer in the death penalty. Killing in my mind is wrong whether by the state or an individual. I would rather pay for the person to live. I think a person's life, not matter the person, is worth every penny.

However, I enjoyed the last meals section the most. I actually thought about what I would want my last meal to be. I kept thinking about a large gallon of ice tea. I don't even drink ice tea! I sounds very good tough.

Voted up in all its glory. and shared in all my networks!


Hot Lips 3 years ago

When I read about people on death row and the privileges they get like a last meal I don't think it should be allowed because when they were going to kill their victim or victims they weren't offered a last meal so why should they be pampered. The other thing that bugs me is that when they are getting the lethal injection and they are complaining that they are in pain, so what if they are in pain let them suffer just like they let their poor victims and their families suffer. So to cut along story short make their last day on earth a living hell!!!!!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working