Texas Will No Longer Honor Last Meal Requests Before Executions

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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The second-most noted death row execution yesterday will have at least one immediate consequence: Inmates scheduled to die in Texas will no longer be allowed to choose their final meal.

Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn't eat any of it.

"It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege," Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote in a letter Thursday to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

"Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made," said Livingston. "They will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit."

"We're fixing to execute the guy and maybe it makes the system feel good about what they're fixing to do," said Senator Whitmore. "Kind of hypocritical, you reckon?" Just a day before Brewer's big order, Cleve Foster requested a five-gallon bucket of peaches along with two fried chickens and French fries, but didn't eat it thanks to a third reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last meals have long been a source of fascination for those attempting to reckon with the idea of a government killing its citizens. Texas previously listed all final meals on its death row website, but stopped after complaints. According to The Last Meals Project, "Justice may not always be served because the innocent can be proved guilty and the guilty can be proved innocent. Choosing the last meal is a significant ritual because the accuracy and validity of this choice is the only answer one can ultimately accept." The photographer James Reynolds documented Last Suppers, too, in a photo series.

Also executed yesterday, Georgia's Troy Davis "was given a tray with a cheeseburger, potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw and cookies but did not eat a last meal, a prison spokeswoman said."

Texas prisons end special last meals in executions [AP]