The Last Supper: Gerald Lee Mitchell


On June 4, 1985, Gerald Lee Mitchell met Charles Marino and Kenneth Fleming at a Houston park, under the pretense that he was going to sell them some marijuana. Instead of completing the drug deal Mitchell compelled the two young men to drive him to a nearby vacant house where they were both robbed and shot. Mitchell instructed Marino to raise his hands before shooting him, allegedly telling him “you don’t want to die with your hands down”. Marino died of his injuries in that abandoned house. Fleming, who was wounded in the chest, hip, and arm, managed to survive by feigning death. Later that same day Mitchell shot and killed another young man, Hector Manguia, during and altercation over a necklace.

Gerald Lee Mitchell was executed by lethal injection on Oct 22, 2001. In his final statement he turned his attention to Marino’s mother, saying: “I am sorry for the pain. I am sorry for the life I took from you. I ask God for forgiveness and I ask you for the same.”

Mitchell was only 17 years old at the time of the murders. Mitchell’s lawyer had asked the supreme court to block the execution due to his age, arguing that the imposition of the death penalty on a minor would violate international law. (This appeal was, of course, unsuccessful; Texas law allows for the death penalty to be imposed on murder convicts whose crime took place when they were as young at 16.) On death row Mitchell had this to say about his path in life: "I was young, I didn't care about living. I was full of hate, full of rage. I really can't explain why. I was attracted to the wild side, the street life where you're trying to make a name for yourself."

Gerald Lee Mitchell’s final meal was assorted Jolly Ranchers.

Mitchell’s last meal of hard candies resonated with me. Candy for supper is the kind of thing that a young child requests on his birthday; the request echoes Mitchell’s station in life and stands in stark contrast to the fearsome demeanor he projected outwardly. Mitchell’s candy — like so many other “dessert for supper“ last meals — serves as a reminder of the child he once was. In this composition I’ve paired the candy with tipped drinking vessels, reminders of the fragility of life. I also included an assortment of rotting human teeth, reminders of mortality and of the bodily decay that is associated with sweets.