No Last Meals On Texas Death Row

By Mike Devlin on Thursday, August 1, 2013
meal
“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” —Ronald Reagan

In a Nutshell

Despite executing nearly five times as many prisoners as any other state in America, Texas does not offer a customary last meal to a condemned prisoner. The practice was abolished in 2011 when Lawrence Russell Brewer, a murderous criminal, ordered an exorbitant feast and then refused to touch a bite of it.

The Whole Bushel

There is no issue more controversial than that of capital punishment, described by some as the ultimate justice and by others as primitive, even blasphemous. Only a handful of countries on Earth still subject condemned prisoners to death, and the vast majority of these countries rank dismally in human rights abuses (countries like China, North Korea, and Iran). In the United States, the death penalty is largely handled on a state-by-state basis. Texas is by far the most lethal state to be a death row prisoner in. There, 503 prisoners have been executed since 1976 (Virginia and Oklahoma rank second and third, with 110 and 105 executions respectively).

Perhaps the most sacred tradition of capital punishment is that of providing the condemned a final meal of his choosing. This is an ancient custom, designed to make peace with the prisoner and prevent his ghost from exacting vengeance. And although Texas has executed 56 people since 2010, they no longer offer a last meal. The tradition ended in 2011, courtesy of Lawrence Russell Brewer.

Brewer was a white supremacist who, along with two cohorts, chained African-American James Byrd to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death along an asphalt road in Jasper, Texas—it was a gruesome passing that doesn’t need to be rehashed in detail. When it was over, the three men dumped what was left of Byrd’s body in front of an African-American cemetery, then went to a barbecue. When asked if he had any regrets for what he’d done, Brewer said “as far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. No, I’d do it all over again, to tell you the truth.” He was sentenced to die for his crimes.

Although the vicious hate crime made national headlines, Brewer’s greatest infamy was in his last meal. Brewer ordered up a massive repast consisting of chicken-fried steak, fried okra, peanut butter fudge, steak, fajitas, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, meat lover’s pizza, and ice cream, among other items—then refused to eat any of it. Brewer’s crash diet sparked a nerve with state lawmakers, and the policy of providing a last meal request to death row inmates was halted.

Show Me The Proof

Lawrence Russell Brewer executed in 1998 dragging death
Last-meal requests come to an end on Texas death row
The Last Last Meal