'Last meals' decision disappoints Americans who note such things
Texas' decision to stop offering "last meals of choice" to death row inmates may have the support of state Sen. John Whitmire, who pushed for the policy change. But it disappointed Ty Treadwell.
Treadwell is an Atlanta-based writer who blogs about last meals and who co-wrote "Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals from Death Row." He said many people are keenly interested in what inmates choose for a last meal, trying to find a deeper meaning in menu choices.
"It gives people a way to relate to this segment of the population that they normally don't think they have any connection with," Treadwell said. "They're trying to read the gravy smears on their plate and see what kind of person they are."
In 2007, Tennessee death row inmate Philip Workman, 53, requested that his final meal of vegetarian pizza be donated to a homeless person living near the Nashville prison. After prison officials balked, Nashville homeless shelters were inundated with donated pizzas.
And then there was Texas inmate James Smith.
Smith, 38, was due to be executed in 1990 he when requested, as a last meal, a lump of dirt.
"He was a self-styled voodoo priest and he wanted a specific type of dirt that would prevent his soul from being trapped in the prison for all eternity," Treadwell said.
The request was denied, Treadwell said.
"He settled for yogurt instead."
As for the Texas policy change, it was prompted by the last-meal request of Lawrence Brewer, convicted in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr. Before his execution Wednesday, he requested an inarguably large meal -- that he then refused to eat.
--Molly Hennessy-Fiske in College Station, Texas
Photo: Philip Ray Workman, convicted and put to death for the killing of a police officer, requested that his final meal be donated to a homeless person living near the Nashville prison. Credit: Mark Humphrey / Associated Press