Memento Mori


The Last Supper: James Smith


On March 7 1983 James Smith entered the office of a life insurance company, armed and masked. During the course of the robbery Larry Don Rohus, a district manager, was shot fatally through the chest.

Smith was executed by lethal injection on June 26, 1990, having waived his final appeals, although 4 US Supreme Court justices believed there were serious reasons to doubt Smith’s mental capacity to make such a decision. In his final statement, Smith said: “I myself did not kill anyone, but I go to my death without begging for my life. I will not humiliate myself. I will let no man break me.”

Smith’s requested final meal was a lump of dirt.

The media widely reported that the dirt was supposed to be an important ingredient in some kind of Voodoo ritual. (Smith was apparently a former Voodoo priest.) This claim may well be true; a cursory online search does indeed turn up some confirmation for the idea that dirt is used in various occult rituals. However, these mostly focus on dirt specifically from a graveyard, as opposed to just any old dirt, which is ostensibly what Smith was asking for. It also seems plausible to me that Smith’s final request was intended as a political statement, and that the associations with Voodoo and magic sprouted from the machinations of a racially biased media. In any case, the true meaning of Smith’s final meal request died with him.

Smith’s request for dirt was denied.

He was given yogurt instead.