M. SCOTT MORRIS: Last meal should stay grace note

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

I wanted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh dead, so that puts me in the pro-death penalty camp.
On the other hand, I know the government has executed innocent people in the past and will again in the future. That puts me in the anti-death penalty camp.
I sit on a hard fence in the foggy, gray middle, unwilling to march for either side because I’m viciously divided on the subject. Call it restraint or cowardice, as you choose.
But I’m firm on one aspect of the death penalty.
We caught a whiff of it at a recent GOP debate when audience members cheered the 234 executions committed during Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s administration.
Affirm the death penalty; vote in favor of it until your dying day; but don’t cheer for it. Death should be a solemn affair.
That goes double when the government is involved, especially since we all know our American jury system gets it wrong at times.
State-sponsored killing is a serious matter, and it deserves to be treated as such.
That brings us to Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in Texas.
The senator is upset that No. 235 took advantage of his customary last meal.
According to The Associated Press, Lawrence Brewer, who was executed on Wednesday, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts.
The request was granted by the taxpayers, then Brewer effectively spit on this traditional courtesy by not taking a bite.
It was pointed out that Brewer’s victim, James Byrd Jr., didn’t get to pick a last meal before he was dragged to death behind a pickup truck along a bumpy road.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice agreed with the senator, so the next condemned man will eat whatever the rest of the prisoners get that night.
This overreaction makes no sense to me. The last meal is a grace note from voters and non-voters, from all of us who take on the Great Executioner’s role whenever someone is put to death in our country.
Brewer abused the courtesy, but he’s dead now so we can’t punish him any more.
Instead, Texas will punish the next condemned man, and the evidence at that trial might not be as solid as it was in Brewer’s case.
Maybe the next to die will want apple pie because that’s what his granny made him.
Maybe he’ll want a cheeseburger because it’s all he can think of.
Maybe he’ll want whatever Sen. Whitmire eats at his next meal at taxpayer expense.
Let him have what he wants. Let him have a final act of kindness at the end because the somber business to come will be irreversible, and it will take place in all of our names.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

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