Three Bexar County inmates are currently scheduled for execution, but there will be no last meal requests for Frank Garcia, Guadalupe Esparza, and Rodrigo Hernandez.
In a swift and definitive move, the State of Texas has suspended the practice of serving a last meal to death row inmates. According to restaurant owner Brian Price, a former inmate and last meal request chef, prisoners do not necessarily get what they ask for when ordering their last meal. Just because a prisoner asks for special items does not mean they actually get them. Could they order anything they wanted? Yes, but according to Price, what they requested and what they were actually served were usually two different things. A prisoner’s request was filled by the prison chef (usually an inmate themselves) and limited to what was available in the prison kitchen. Now, instead of requesting a special meal before they are administered a lethal injection, prisoners who are to be executed will now have whatever the general population is eating.
In the center of this decision is Texas State Senator John Whitmire (Democrat, 15th Senatorial District). Whitmire is a member of the Texas Sunset Commission which is responsible for reviewing state agencies to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in state government. He also chairs the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. It has been stated that eliminating the last meal from the prison system has nothing to do with saving tax payers money. In fact, Price offered to provide last meals for free, but was turned down by the state.
With one word from Whitmire, the Huntsville’s Walls Unit (where the state’s death chamber is located) bowed to his bidding. How does one Texas lawmaker have so much influence? He threatened to take legislative action and introduce a bill during the next legislative session if Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Brad Livingston did not cancel the practice immediately. This would seem like a logical step for a senator, but apparently Whitmire has decided to bypass the legislative system and decide his own rules. The American way is to allow people to have their say on a topic and then allow our representatives to vote on it. It is an unsettling commentary on our American legal system when one person wields so much control.
There are much bigger issues at stake than an inmate’s dietary request. With new DNA testing, exonerations have highlighted the flaws in the justice system. Reforms are needed at the evidence gathering and trial levels, not in regards to what prisoners are eating. According to The Innocence Project website, there have been 273 exonerations in 34 states and Washington D.C. Forty-three have been in Texas. One would hope that if Whitmire thinks that a last meal request is “illogical”, that he is truly outraged by the thought of innocent people going to jail. It seems like Whitmire’s time and energy could be directed to more worthwhile causes.
If you or anyone you love has been arrested, contact the Law Office of Dayna L. Jones at (210) 255-8525 to schedule an appointment with the attorney. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.