Texas Ends Special "Last Meals" for Death Row Inmates

If only it were as easy to end the death penalty as it was for Texas to end last meals for those about to be executed.

Texas inmates who are set to be executed will no longer get their choice of last meals, after a prominent state senator voiced concern over a request from a man condemned for a notorious race killing.

...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 to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Livingston agreed and with one fell swoop of his pen, ended the practice. [More...]

The legal cost to Texas of a death penalty case from indictment through execution is about $3 million dollars. The average death row prisoner spends 10 years on death row, at a cost of $40,000 a year (compared to $20,000 a year to house a non-death row inmate.) Under Rick Perry's watch alone, Texas spent $700 million on capital punishment.

This year, Texas will spend $15.5 million on the death penalty. And Texas wants to complain about the cost of a last meal to a condemned inmate that amounts to $70 or less? The real reason of course, is that Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered a huge last meal and didn't eat it.

[State senator] Whitmire said he felt that the inmate had ordered it in an attempt to “make a mockery out of the process.”

And the inevitable eye for an eye:

"He never gave his victim an opportunity for a last meal."

Memo to Sen. Whitmire: An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

< Thursday Open Thread | Bill Clinton Supports Revising Death Penalty Appeal Process In Light Of DNA Advances >
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    As if the state of Texas hasn't (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Anne on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:03:51 AM EST
    already shown the world that it mocks "the process" better than just about any other state, right?

    They don't care what the meal costs - they're just ticked off that one of the condemned found a way to flip off the state, and wasn't sufficiently grateful for this accommodation.  I mean, how dare he order a big meal and then not eat it?  Where were his manners?

    Jesus, these people give me a headache.

    As if a last meal transforms "the process" into one that is at all humane.  "We're fixin' ta keel yew now, boy, so yew best eat that big ol' steak we cooked up nice fer yew.  Cain't have yew goin' off ta meet yer Maker on an empty stomach now, can we?  Sit up straight, now, say yer blessin', and don't ferget to use yer napkin - God don't wanna see yew with food all over yer face - and neither do all those fine folks comin' to watch the show."

    Texas; if it's stupid you're looking for, they'll try harder, and do it better than anywhere else.


    Excellent post. (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Chuck0 on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 11:38:47 AM EST
    I couldn't agree with you more. There going to kill the guy. What does it matter what he orders. Or if he eats it. I am so glad I left the sh**hole 6 years ago. Thankfully I wasn't born there either so I can disavow being a "texan" any way, shape or form.

    Ralph Yarborough (none / 0) (#38)
    by MKS on Sat Sep 24, 2011 at 09:20:40 PM EST
    from another era shows that Liberals were once elected in Texas.

    In the motorcade in Dallas with JFK.


    Why Didn't You Mention Partry Affiliation ? (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 08:47:19 AM EST
    Whitmire is a big ole D.

    And as much as you want it to be about the money, it's not, it's about another GD democrat trying to pander to hard-core conservatives.

    Who's the bigger fool, the guy that ordered it, or the people who allowed a man who is suppose to get one meal, a feast fit for 10 ?

    Here is what he ordered:

    *Two chicken fried steaks smothered in gravy with sliced onions

    *A triple meat bacon cheeseburger with fixings on the side

    *A cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapenos

    *A large bowl of fried okra with ketchup

    *One pound of barbecue with half a loaf of white bread

    *Three fajitas with fixings

    *A meat lovers pizza

    *Three root beers

    *One pint of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream

    *A slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts

    What that actually tells you... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:14:10 AM EST
    ... is where lay the sympathies of the guards.

    That meal was over (none / 0) (#9)
    by the capstan on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:21:55 AM EST
    the top.  I heard about it yesterday on NPR, too.  The torture his victim endured leaves me with little pity for the guy--but I don't care whether he was 'flipping the bird' to Texas or not.  In a time where children go to bed (and to school) hungry, allowing someone to order all that was a travesty.  I do not suppose the guards distributed the uneaten food to a few hungry families....

    Politics (and money, to some extent) are beside the point.


    Yes, and I worry for his cholesterol levels. (none / 0) (#20)
    by KeysDan on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 11:01:12 AM EST
    Actually, the warden should probably cut off all food for several days in advance since it really will not be needed, and the State could save even more money.

    You ever put yourself in the place (none / 0) (#21)
    by the capstan on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 11:26:43 AM EST
    of the condemnd guy?  Growing up, for some reason I had nightmares about my having an appointment with an electric chair (as was the custom).  Believe me, I would not be able to swallow a bite in those conditions, so I don't have much affinity for a 'last meal.'

    When my last, paralyzed, dog was pts, I was one person (many disagree with me) who did not feed mine up with all the verboten goodies: chocolate and burgers and entire chickens.  Why stuff the condemned like a goose--especially knowing the normal actions taken by a newly dead body?

    I am NOT pro-death penalty, tho there exist cases where I will not dispute it.  (Nuremburg trials?)  But there's no way a last meal will enhance the process.


    The death penalty is (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by KeysDan on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 01:07:33 PM EST
    a vestige of barbarism, in my view.  But, at least,  the idea of a last meal offers some dignity to the one to be executed as well as to the ones participating in the execution. Begrudging this final attempt at a humane gesture seems to have more to do with vengeance than cost.

    Read recently (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by the capstan on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 01:38:53 PM EST
    that the last meal was devised as a way of stupifyng the about-to-be-executed.  Full belly equals less resistance?  Not so sure about the humane part.  Can't swear to the historical accuracy, but it makes sense (expecially if that last meal included some drugs).  Nowadays they get their drugs on the gurney: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    What ? (1.00 / 1) (#33)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 05:14:05 PM EST
    Are you seriously comparing your dog to inmates waiting to be executed ?  The inmate knows death is at the door, your dog didn't. He was suffering and maybe a full belly would have gave him the tiniest bit of joy.

    A better question is why not ?

    I had a dog that was acting strange, took him to the Vet Clinic, cancer everywhere, they wanted to put him down right there.  I don't remember the specifics, but I had them put a tube with a valve for urinating so he could come home for the weekend. That dog died after the best weekend of his life.

    I would do that for any animal or person not waiting for execution.  Good god man, joy is joy, no matter you time left.

    How any pet owner could not spoil a pet before death is straight up cold.

    I assume you are against the make a Wish foundation, why give kids close to death any sort of happiness.


    Oh--go blow! (none / 0) (#34)
    by the capstan on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:03:54 PM EST
    My paralyzed dog, who could feel no pain, was a GSD.  If I had fed her that stuff, she'd have vomited it right back up.

    My paralyzed dog went out to chase balls in her cart (dog wheelchair) for an hour before she was put to sleep.  That she did love. Then we sat outside, her head in my lap, and waited for the vet.

    Everyday was the best day of her life.  Even as paralysis took her wag and her bark and was creeping toward her lungs, she went out every 2 hours in that cart to play or walk--every two hours except in the dead of night.  By that time, I could no longer lift her without the risk of dropping her.  She had paths of carpet through the house while she could still wobble, and once she could no longer stand, she learned to pull herself with her front legs.  When she lost that ability, then it was time for her to go.  GSDs are active, protective dogs, you know.  Not lap toys.

    Don't tell me someone 'did it better.'  It took us 2 long years to reach that point.  And I did the best I could, for that dog and for other pets.  I did the best I could for a paralyzed husband and I do the best I can for a severely retarded daughter.  I never confused my dog with a person: my husband, my daughter, or a person awaiting execution.  And when my time comes, please don't stuff me full of food.  My belly may be empty, but whatever is eternal in me will be waiting to see if there is another adventure.  


    It only takes one death row inmate ... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Bratrios on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:15:51 AM EST
    ... to ruin it for everybody.

    It's inappropriate now (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:53:56 AM EST
    for the state and the 'justice' system to have any more humanity than convicted murderers have.

    Now that's movin' forward!

    Justice' just another word for (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 10:27:26 AM EST
    No one left unscrewed.

    Sorry (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:54:51 AM EST
    "extremely inapproriate"


    The punishment was already decided. (none / 0) (#1)
    by observed on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 04:29:43 AM EST
    Whitmire's reasoning could be used to argue that NO frills of any kind be given to any prisoners---after all, what comfort did they offer their victims?

    What "frills of any kind" do you imagine (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 08:39:04 AM EST
    are now provided to prisoners?

    Health care (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 08:55:53 AM EST
    So health care is a "frill" now? (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by sj on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:46:53 AM EST
    Hey - I don't have it. (none / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 10:13:40 AM EST
    And, no, I'm not arguing that life in prison is a good thing, nor that the state should not provide basic medical care.

    And yes, it was intended to be a bit snarky, but in response to the question, it is a fact that people who go to work and do honest work every day don't get to enjoy "frills" such as affordable health care.


    define affordable (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by CST on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 10:35:55 AM EST
    it costs them their freedom.  And in a lot of cases they are working without really being paid.

    That's not really a situation I would describe as "affordable health care" because you eliminate their ability to pay for it at the same time.


    That fact that you don't have it (5.00 / 0) (#24)
    by sj on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 11:55:35 AM EST
    is a major issue.  That fact that it is not universal is a problem, not a "frill" for those who have it.

    I'd respectfully suggest to you.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by Dadler on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:57:37 AM EST
    ...that health care in prisons is as much for the outside population, since most prisoners are released, and it's a pretty good idea not to have them back in society carrying infectious diseases.

    Silly, We All Have Insurance (none / 0) (#25)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:10:39 PM EST
    jbindc has forgotten 2009, the republicans could not stop telling anyone who would listen that we all have insurance, the emergency room, so stop complaining.

    And Dadler, please stop giving the right ideas on low cost death sentences.  Before we know it they will be pulling insurance and praying for the plague to sweep through the prison system and interpret it as gods wrath.

    I mean really, who cars if a guy get shanked and bleeds to death, or has Appendicitis, and even better, we can let pregnant women push out babies in their cells.  

    When you really think about it, there are million of people on the planet starving, why are we treating murders better them them, they don't deserve that luxury.

    This post is all snark laying with bits of truth..


    And I would respectfully suggest that (none / 0) (#27)
    by Anne on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:33:48 PM EST
    the number of individuals being held pending trial, or those serving sentences, who have long-standing physical and mental health issues, represent a scathing indictment of the US health system, in general; when people openly admit to commiting crimes just so they can go to prison and get treatment for their health problems, you know something is seriously wrong - and it's not the fault of the criminal.

    How many people in the prison system might not be there if they had had proper health care?  How many would have had their mental illnesses treated and controlled with medication?  How many would have gotten treatment for substance abuse?  

    The truth of the matter is that a resident of the prison system does have something he or she would probably not have on the outside, but resenting the inmate (which you have not expressed, but which others seem to be feeling) instead of those who have created this mess makes no sense to me.  


    TV, weight rooms, painted walls... (none / 0) (#11)
    by observed on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 09:49:05 AM EST
    , the occasional lemon chicken. I'm sure there are plenty of things which legislators in Texas or Georgia would consider "frills".

    "Weight rooms" is a myth (none / 0) (#15)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 10:10:28 AM EST
    the rest is not worth responding to.  TV is a drug to keep prisoners occupied and thus deterred from harming each other and guards.  Overcrowding is such that there are not even enough make-work jobs to keep everyone busy even half the time.

    I'm sorry it wasn't clear I was being (none / 0) (#17)
    by observed on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 10:24:10 AM EST
    ironic. One can read many stories about legislators who complain about this or that manner of "coddling" inmates.
    I certainly do no agree with that opinion.

    Hell, they think a heartbeat... (none / 0) (#23)
    by Dadler on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 11:45:58 AM EST
    ...is too much for these prisoners to possess.

    Oh, dear (none / 0) (#35)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:38:17 PM EST
    There is something about on-line writing that tends to flatten the rhythm and tone of irony.  My apologies if it was I who was being obtuse in my reading of your comment, Observed.

    Resources (none / 0) (#2)
    by koshembos on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:03:31 AM EST
    It looks like Texans want to save on their prisoners. How about harvesting a kidney from a death row inmate? Next

    Please don't (none / 0) (#26)
    by Zorba on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 12:24:42 PM EST
    give them any ideas!  Science fiction writer Larry Niven produced a series of books about a future world in which death-penalty prisoners were "broken up" and sent to the organ banks.  The need for more and more organs for transplant became so acute, ever more minor crimes became punishable by sending the perpetrators to the organ banks.   {{shudder}}

    There are some actual cases (none / 0) (#36)
    by Peter G on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 07:41:19 PM EST
    of death row prisoners' offering to donate organs to patients in need, only to be refused the opportunity.  Perhaps we need to draw a hard line, given the risk of coerced consent.  Yet if someone in that position wants to make "community restitution or reparations" in that way, and given that s/he is in a particularly good position to take the associated risks of major surgery, I have to wonder why not?

    Jeralyn wrote on this (none / 0) (#37)
    by CoralGables on Fri Sep 23, 2011 at 08:13:03 PM EST
    six months back

    Site violator (none / 0) (#40)
    by oculus on Wed Feb 08, 2012 at 01:34:46 AM EST