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Texas and Florida Try to Make Death Row Less Hospitable

You might think that the death penalty would be an adequate -- or more than adequate -- punishment for a person's crimes, but certain lawmakers from Texas and Florida believe that those on death row still have it too easy.

Last month in Texas, Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed on Sept. 21 for the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr., asked for and received an elaborate "last meal" of "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 Associated Press reports that after prison officials provided this meal to Brewer, he didn't eat any of it, prompting Texas State Sen. John Whitmire to denounce the state's decades-old "last meal" practice.

Whitmire promptly shot off a letter to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, stating that it was "extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege," and that if the practice wasn't stopped immediately he would introduce legislation to end it. Livingston replied that he agreed and that effective immediately in Texas, inmates about to be executed "will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit."

Meanwhile, the AP reports that in Florida, state Rep. Brad Drake introduced a bill this week that would end the use of lethal injections in Florida executions, and instead require those on death row to choose between electrocution or a firing squad. Drake said that a recent discussion he had with a constituent at a Waffle House caused him to realize that the use of lethal injection allowed killers to "get off easy." Drake believes that the use of a firing squad or electrocution would force death row inmates to think about their punishment "every morning."

The American Civil Liberties Union has already weighed in against Drake's proposed bill, which the state Legislature will consider during the session that starts in January 2012. Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said "just when you thought that public policy in Florida couldn't get worse, along comes a state rep who develops proposed legislation from what he overhears at the Waffle House." Simon added that the legislation "would be embarrassing -- if our legislature were capable of embarrassment."

Posted by Bruce Carton on October 13, 2011 at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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