Saturday, September 24, 2011

No More Last Meals

The State of Texas has stopped letting about to be put to death prisoners order special last meals.  The stated reason is that the whole thing was nonsense.  I'm not sure if the nonsense referred just to a special last meal or to the whole notion of murdering someone as pay back for another murder.
Texas started its last meal ritual after it first execution by electrocution in 1924.  The most popular last meal requests have been hamburgers. Prison cooks have tried to honor all requests -- if not in quantity, then in quality. For instance an inmate once requested a pound of barbecue, but received a smaller amount because that's all the prison kitchen had available.
Texas State Senator John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, has been getting increasingly miffed over these last meal requests.  One request in particular so outraged him that he demanded Brad Livingston, executive director of the state prison agency, instruct prison workers to stop preparing special last meals.
Here's what sent him over the hospitality edge:
Lawrence Brewer was convicted of a gruesome murder. He was a self-described white supremacist and by all accounts a really awful person.  Before his execution he requested a last meal that included: two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapenos; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza; one pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers.
Apparently for that particular meal the prison kitchen was well stocked and filled the order completely.  And then as his final act of completely anti-social behavior, Brewer ate none of it.
The guy was convicted of a hate crime.  He was found guilty of dragging a man to death and apparently he didn't argue with the verdict.  I'm not sure why anyone expected him to suddenly develop manners and follow the last meal rules.
Nevertheless, because of his in your face last meal behavior no one about to be executed in Texas gets to request a last meal now.  Apparently the Senator has gotten quite a few calls asking to show a little compassion and allow those about to die even for crimes they might not have committed to at least enjoy a hamburger in their last moments.  So far the Senator is not moved.
Kathryn Kase, interim executive director of Texas Defenders, a nonprofit organization that trains and assists lawyers who represent death row inmates, said the state's decision to end last meals shows a lack of "compassion for the condemned." The action "says more about us, I’m afraid, than perhaps was intended.”
“I’m very sorry that the state of Texas has chosen to send that message,” she said.
 In all that's wrong with our justice and prison systems, refusing a reasonable last meal request seems so far off the mark as to be ludicrous but possibly not as ludicrous as the entire concept of murder for the sake of murder.

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