Texas prison officials Thursday ended the decades-old practice of giving inmates who are about to be executed a choice of their last meal.
Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday, was lucky only in getting a chance to order his last meal. Brewer ordered 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, Associated Press reported.
But he didn't get to eat any of it, a prison official said.
The cancellation of the last meal was prompted by a letter from John Whitmire, a Texas state senator, to Brad Livingston, executive director of the Department of Criminal Justice. It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege, Whitmire wrote. It's a privilege which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim.
He didn't have to ask twice as the department received his letter Thursday and eliminated the last meal immediately.
Within hours of receiving the letter, Livingston said the senator had a valid point and the practice of allowing death row inmates to choose their final meal was history.
Texas is sure to face criticism for the decision, especially since it was in the spotlight already for executing four times more inmates than the rest of the country combined, including some inmates whose convictions were disputed.
Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made, Livingston told the Associated Press. They will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit.
Whitmire said that the tradition of allowing last requests was ridiculous.
Even death penalty opponents didn't see it as a big issue in the context of what they call a grossly unjust system.
It's a minor thing compared with the fact that they are killing him, Brian Evans, a campaigner for Amnesty International's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign, told Reuters. The cruelty of the whole process is much larger than whether you get to pick the last meal that you eat.
Jim Harrington, the director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said he even saw the elimination of the last meal as a good thing, because the practice masked some of the cruelty of the death penalty itself.
I am totally opposed to capital punishment, he told Reuters, but I certainly don't understand the logic of a last meal, and the way it's turned into such a show.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Texas executes four times more inmates than the rest of the nation every year and last meals ordered by inmates have run the gamut.