- Politics and Social Issues
Texas Abolishes Last Meal Tradition For Death Row Inmates
On September 21, 2011 in Huntsville, Texas, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed and died in the Texas Death Chamber, With him died a centuries old tradition "The Last Meal For Texas Death Row Inmates.
Brewer was executed for the 1998 murder of James Bryd Jr., in Jasper Texas. The murder which drew national attention as the most horriffic hate crimes in American History. Brewer and two other accomplices chained Bryd to the back of a pickup truck by the feet and drug him for 3 1/2 miles before he hit a culvert and was decapitated and his arm torn off. The corners office has ruled the decapitation to be the cause of death. Byrd's body was left on a road in front of a church to be found by the black residents who attended the church.
The state of Texas has traditionally allowed inmates sentenced to death to request whatever they want as their last meal.
Brewers last meal request consisted of the following:
2 chicken fried steaks smothered with onions and gravy, a triple meat cheeseburger with bacon, a cheese omelete, a large bowl of fried okra, three orders of fajitas, a pint of Blue Bell icecream, a pound of barbeque, a half loaf of white bread, a slab of peanut butter fudge sprinkled with peanuts, a meat lovers pizza and 3 rootbeers.
When the meal arrived Brewer told prison officials he was not hungry and did not eat one bite of the meal.Brewer was not the first inmate to lose his appetite after ordering a feast, but his refusal to eat angered Texas State Senator John Whitmire so much he wrote a letter to the Executive Director of Texas department of Corrections, Brad Livingston. In his letter he demanded that the last meal tradition be ceased immediately. He also threatened that if this "ridiculious practice continued he would seek a state law prohibiting it".
Director livingston concurred and issued an order that "effective immediately" no more such accomadations would be made. The condemned would recieve the same meals as the other offenders on the units. Given this option I think I would pass.
I do not know the reason for Brewers refusal to consume his last meal, may be he lost his appetite knowing that he would be killed in a few hours, maybe it was one last "up yours" to the Department of Corrections who would later on kill him, maybe it was his last way of having some control of what was happening in his life. The reasons I am sure could be many and varied.Whatever the reason, I know from working in the system for so long that the last meal held much meaning to many of those who must make the journey to the other side in this way. To some there are the memories of a childhood meal, mamas fried chicken or maybe grandmas meatloaf, a favorite meal shared with a wife, girlfrien, of around a family dinner table. Anyway I feel this tradition should not have been abolished.
The day after Brewer was executed, Senator Whitmire said"enough is enough' It is highly inappropiate to give a person sentenced to death such a priviledge, one he did not give to his victim". Priviledge...I have to question myself on that one...we are killing someone to show that killing is wrong, and with Texas' record and the number of executions performed I have to wonder if it is really a priviledge. Texas leads the nation in the num,ber of executions and the United States leads the World in the number of our citizens who are incarcerated. These facts and the fact that so many have been exonerated make me ask myself if we are going to kill a man is it too much to ask to allow him the dignity of one last meal.
Brian price is an ex-convict who now owns his own resturant, has married and is a productive member of our society. Mr. Price spent a decade preparing meals for those to be executed. He says he found it difficult at first. "not to minimize the crimes, the majority have earned their place at that dinner table". Price offered to pay for and cook the last meals of those on death row. "we should not get rid of the last meal tradition. Justice is being served when this person is executed. Can we not show our softer side, our compassion?' Price was able to overcome his feelings about cooking for those condemned after speaking to another inmate whose job it was to clean up the death chamber after executions. "it doesn't bother me to clean the blood off of the gurney after the execution, what gets to me is cleaning off the handprints, smeared lipstick, and tears stains of the family members who watched their loved one die". That conversation changed Prices attitude forever. "After that when I cooked a meal I just imagined it was my family member, my brother, on that gurney...and I cooked."
Even though Price and many others believe that the last meal should be kept alive and Price offered to pay for the food and cook it...Texas refused his offer!
Texas has always been hardnosed regarding the treatment of those unfortunate enough to find themselves buried in the bowels of one of its prisons.