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Texas death row inmates should get a choice for their last meal

Texas death row inmates should get a choice for their last meal

Texas death row inmates should get a choice for their last meal
March 30
12:00 2021

In Texas, inmates on death row are no longer afforded a level of “luxury” for their last meals.

Before 2011, Texas inmates sentenced to death were able to make reasonable requests for their last meal. This policy changed when Lawrence R. Brewer refused to eat the excessive amount of food he requested.

Brewer requested a literal feast consisting of two chicken fried steaks smothered in gravy with sliced onions, a triple meat bacon cheeseburger with the ‘fixings’ on the side, a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapeños, a large bowl of fried okra with ketchup, a pound of barbecue with a half a loaf of white bread, three fajitas, a meat lovers pizza, three root-beers, one pint of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts.

After receiving all the food he requested, Brewer refused to eat claiming that he was not hungry, a move Texas State Senator John Whitmire saw as a final act of rebellion. Whitmire ended the long-held tradition of fulfilling last meal requests from death row inmates with a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice outlying his grievances with the practice.

Since then, death row inmates eat their last meal from the prison’s daily menu, the same as every inmate. Texas is the only state that does not honor any special requests from death row inmates.

Donnie Cleveland Lance was executed on Jan. 27, 2020, in Georgia and was granted his request of two chili steak burgers, fries, onion rings and a soda.

In Alabama, Nathaniel Woods was executed on March 5, 2020. He was granted his request for a meal of chicken patties and leg quarters, sweet potatoes, spinach, fries, cooked apples, oranges and an orange-flavored drink. Woods only took one bite of his food before sending it away.

The federal government also grants special requests for last meals. Brandon Bernard requested a meat lover’s pizza before his execution on Dec. 10, 2020. Something he was not even sure he still liked the taste of after being in prison for so long.

I cannot speak for Brewer and his intentions when he declined to eat his requested meal, but removing the opportunity for future inmates is cruel, dehumanizing and frankly petty. If the death penalty remains in Texas, so should special last meal requests.

There is an argument against providing these people any preferential treatment due to the heinous crimes they committed. Still, in the same vein, they are paying their debt to society with their life. How much more can they be punished?

Granting them a special request for their last meal is an act of mercy and allows them to embrace their humanity one last time. Even if they decide they can not eat what they requested, they should still be given the opportunity.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Steven Nickols

Steven Nickols

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