Here’s Why Death Row Inmates in Texas No Longer Get a Last Meal
The Tradition of a 'Last Meal'
The custom of giving a condemned person a 'last meal' can be traced back to various origins. Some cultures did so as a humane gesture, others to ward off evil spirits, and some even trace the idea back to the Last Supper of Jesus.
Texas started offering death row prisoners a choice for a final meal in 1924. This marks the time when the state made the switch from the gallows to the electric chair as the preferred method of execution.
For eight-plus decades, condemned Texas inmates were allowed to have free rein as to what their last meal would be before their sentence was carried out. That all changed thanks to Lawrence Brewer and Senator John Whitmire.
One of the Most Gruesome Crimes in Texas
It happened right here in the Pineywoods of East Texas in June 1998. James Byrd, Jr. was secured to a chain that was attached to a pick-up truck and dragged for three miles outside Jasper, Texas in a crime motivated by racial hatred.
Three men, two from Jasper and one from Sulphur Springs, would eventually be convicted of the heinous act. One of those three was Lawrence Russell Brewer. He was sentenced to death for his participation in the murder.
John Whitmire has been a Texas State Senator since 1982. He is the most senior member of the Senate, and he has recently thrown his hat into the ring for Houston's mayoral race.
Whitmire was not a proponent of condemned inmates getting the privilege of a last meal. However, the last meal fiasco of Lawrence Brewer was the tipping point.
Lawrence Brewer's Final Meal Request
The execution date for Brewer was set for September 21, 2011. His last meal request included the following:
- Two chicken fried steaks with gravy
- Triple-meat bacon cheeseburger
- Fried okra with ketchup
- One pound of barbecue
- Three steak fajitas
- Cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños
- Meat lover's pizza
- One pint of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream
- One slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts
- Three root beers
HE DID NOT EAT ANY OF HIS FOOD
John Whitmire's Final Straw
Senator Whitmire had seen enough. His position on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee gave him the clout to see to it that the 'last meal' on September 21, 2011, would be the last granted to death row inmates in Texas.
Strange Last Meal Requests
Granted, the smorgasbord ordered by Brewer ranks way up there on bizarre last-meal requests, but here are a few other odd food choices requested by death row prisoners:
- Assortment of flavors of Jolly Ranchers
- Clump of dirt
- One non-pitted olive
- Two pints of mint-chocolate ice cream
- Chocolate birthday cake with 7 pink candles
- 20 beef tacos and beef enchiladas, two double cheeseburgers, a jalapeño pizza, fried chicken, spaghetti, fruit cake, half a chocolate cake and half of a vanilla cake, cookies-n-cream and caramel-pecan fudge ice cream, two Cokes, two Pepsis, two root beers, and two glasses of orange juice
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