Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Petty As Petty Gets

It has long been a tradition to give a dying man his last requests for dinner. Lawrence Brewer took that request to an extreme, ordering a meal fit for an entire cellblock. That produced a backlash from state Senator John Whitmire who demanded an end to the tradition in Texas. He succeeded and now death row inmates will simply get whatever is served that night at the prison.

“Enough is enough,” Whitmire insisted, “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege. It’s a privilege which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim.”

Brewer was a man below contempt to be sure. The white supremacist was convicted in the notorious 1998 killing in which James Byrd Jr., a black man, was dragged behind a truck for several miles.

However, the tradition of the last meal has long represented an element of mercy in the application of the death penalty. I must admit that I was taken aback by the account of what Brewer ordered when I first read: two chicken fried steaks, a triple meat bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet, a large bowl of fried okra, three fajitas, a pint of Blue Bell ice cream, and a pound of barbecue with a half loaf of white bread. However, the value of such a meal is likely less than $20 at a prison facility. In states like Florida, such meals are limited to a maximum value of $40.

~ from Texas Ends Last Meal Tradition After Brewer Execution by Jonathan Turley ~
When I first read this, I thought that, maybe, it was some kind of joke. However, when I realized this was coming from Texas, I realized it was serious.

The only word that I can think of to describe this new policy is petty. So what if convicted murderer Lawrence Brewer pigged out before the state stuck a needle in his arm. When you consider all the money that state legislatures like Texas throw at their corporate donors, a $50 or $100 tab for a last meal is peanuts.

Of course, I wouldn't mind getting rid of "last meals" once and for all. If states like Texas did away with the death penalty, it wouldn't even be an issue!!

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