Citing a complaint from State Senator John Whitmire (D., Harris County), the Texas Department of Corrections has announced it will stop offering condemned inmates the "inappropriate" luxury of choosing their last meal.
Prison officials halted the practice Thursday after a state senator complained about the last meal served to Lawrence Russell Brewer, a white supremacist who was executed on Wednesday for chaining a black man, James Byrd Jr., 49, to the back of his pickup truck and dragging him down a bumpy country road to his death a decade ago.
Brewer requested 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.
I'll bet they had a Texas-sized feast in the prison guards' break room that night.
In its way Whitmire's complaint makes sense. It does appear that some condemned men as a final, and pathetic, blow against the State that's about to terminate their lives, order ridiculously large and varied meals they have no intention of eating. So perhaps it makes sense, from a petty penny-pincher's perspective, to end such nonsense. "You'll have corned beef hash, and like it!"
But even in a State which fervently accepts the idea that lethal injection is an appropriate penalty for murder, there's something especially cruel and unusual in Whitmire's demand that the old custom, which dates back to Roman times, be abolished even for inmates who don't abuse the "privilege" of a last meal. The death penalty is supposed to be civilization's response to those who commit the ultimate crime, and it's supposed to be carried out in a humane fashion. I'm not about to say that by making execution harder than it already is, by denying the condemned man even this little luxury, we show ourselves to be just as cruel as the murderer. We simply show ourselves to be petty, and mean.
John Whitmire is one mean son of a bitch.