Texas Ends Tradition Of Last Meal Requests On Death Row

There will be no more last-meal requests for Texas death row inmates. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice says the new policy takes effect immediately. The lavish meal ordered up by a condemned man outraged a state senator from Houston, and led to the sudden end of an age-old tradition.

Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed Wednesday for murdering James Byrd Jr. in 1998 in Jasper.

Brewer asked for a huge spread for his last meal, and the lavishness was the last straw for state senator John Whitmire.

The senator is chair of the criminal justice committee.

“Brewer who committed one of the worst crimes imaginable, manipulated the system where he ordered a variety of items: two chicken fried steaks, a cheese omelet, beef,  cheeseburger with three pieces of meat, Blue Bell ice cream. And it goes on and on. I just said enough’s enough.”

Not only that, but Brewer never ate the meal.

Whitmire called prison Chief Brad Livingston, who immediately agreed to change the policy.

Again, Whitmire:

“And quite frankly the well-behaved, low-level, nonviolent inmates never see a meal like that.”

Jim Harrington is director of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

That group is adamantly against the death penalty, but Harrington says that he agrees with Whitmire on this:

“The whole idea about being in prison is punishment. Right, and you don’t do this for people in prison, give them these kinds of meals. Particularly when you’re convicted of a hideous crime.”

Harrington says providing a delicious last meal makes it seem like the executioners feel guilty for carrying out the death penalty.

Whitmire agrees that the practice does seem hypocritical and that’s why it should stop:

“I voted for the death penalty. I take it very serious. So why, two hours before, you treat them like a celebrity and try to make them feel good? It’s nuts, it’s hypocritical, it should have ended a long time ago.”

In a statement, Livingston says that on the day of their executions, death-row inmates will now get the same food as other inmates get.

 

 

 

Above Image: Last Suppers by James Reynolds
A series of photographs documenting former Death Row prisoners' requests for their last meal before execution.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...