— Texas death row inmates will no longer be permitted to choose the menu for their last meal.
The decision came after state Sen. John Whitmire took issue with the meal ordered by Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday for the infamous dragging death of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.
Whitmire said he has always disapproved of catering to inmates, but this case seemed especially outrageous. On Thursday, he called the director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and followed up with a letter, recounting Brewer's meal choice of 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.
TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston responded: "I believe Senator Whitmire's concerns regarding the practice of allowing death row offenders to choose their last meal are valid. Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made. They will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit."
Whitmire, chairman of the state Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said he's not sure when the long-standing tradition of catering to an inmate's last meal request began or how many other states with capital punishment follow the same practice.
The Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based anti-capital punishment organization that collects execution statistics, told The Associated Press it had no information on final meals.
Troy Davis, executed in Georgia a few hours after Brewer, reportedly declined a last meal.
Journalists have been documenting final meals for decades. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy, executed in Illinois on May 10, 1994, for the rape and murders of 33 young men and boys, ordered fried shrimp, Kentucky Fried Chicken, French fries and a pound of strawberries. Timothy McVeigh requested two pints of mint-chocolate chip ice cream before his execution on June 11, 2001, in Indiana, for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 167 people and injured 684.
Whitmire said he's satisfied with the policy change, which will affect three inmates scheduled for death this year. Overall, Texas has 308 inmates awaiting execution.
"No death-row inmate prior to execution should be catered to," he said. "It's just common sense."
As for Brewer's last meal, Whitmire said it was an act of manipulation. Prison officials reported he ate none of it.