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Dinner before death | What some Tennessee death row inmates have chosen as their final meals

If you got to pick your very last meal, what would you choose?
Credit: WBIR

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — What do a peach pie, a Philly cheesesteak and a double cheeseburger all have in common?

They were all requested by Tennesee death row inmates as part of their last meals.

Three days before the scheduled execution, the inmate is placed on death watch. This involves strict guidelines "to maintain the security and control of the offender and to maintain safe and orderly operations of the prison," according to the Tennesee Department of Corrections.

Every Tennessee inmate on death watch is granted, within reason, a special meal on the final day before the execution. This is where the concept of the last meal comes from. 

Billy Ray Irick, a Knoxvillian executed in 2018, ordered a Pepsi and a Super Deluxe Burger from the restaurant Fat Mo's for his last meal.

Another Tennessean, Stephen West, requested a Philly cheesesteak and French fries before his execution in 2019. 

Inmates can opt out of the last meal. Donnie Johnson decided to completely forgo his. However, he was offered the same menu options that the rest of the offenders at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution receive, according to the TDOC.
Edmund Zagorski originally opted out of his last meal but requested pickled pig’s knuckles and tails at the last minute.

The limitations for last meals differ from state to state. In Tennessee, the meal cannot exceed $20, according to the TDOC.

Last meals for Florida death row inmates cannot exceed $40 and the requested food must be available locally. 

Texas stopped allowing death row inmates to choose a last meal in 2011 after an inmate requested a large amount of food for his last meal and did not eat any of it, according to the Marshall Project.

There are currently 47 offenders on death row in Tennessee. 

Oscar Franklin Smith, the oldest death row inmate in the state, was scheduled to be executed on Thursday, April 21. 

However, Smith was granted a temporary reprieve by Gov. Bill Lee after already consuming his last meal. He ate a double bacon cheeseburger, a deep-dish apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream. 

The TDOC told 10News that Smith will not be offered a second last meal.

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