Death Row "Last Meals" May Be Becoming Thing of Past

We wrote a little story for this paper in the Dark Ages (before, yikes, the Internet!) about the last meals that Arizona's death row inmates order in advance should their time ever come.



We asked Mike Arra, then the public-information officer for the Arizona corrections department, to provide us with a list of what the 80-or-so death row inmates locked up inside Cellblock 6 in Florence wanted for their last supper.


Lots of guys (and it was an all-male "club" at the time) wanted an obligatory meal of fried chicken, yams (funny, that), Dr. Pepper, and French fries. Now and then, someone threw in a Mexican feast--enchiladas, tamales, and plenty of salsa.

Blood-rare steaks also were popular.

But what we recall most was the formal request of one Jasper McMurtrey, a onetime Texas biker who had found his way to the Row in the 1970s after killing two people and wounded a third in a Tucson bar fight.

McMurtrey said he wanted to eat a dog, and we don't mean a hot dog.

We're talking about man's best bud.

Can't remember at this point whether he asked for it to be boiled or broiled..

Didn't specify the breed, to our recollection.

Some years later, McMurtrey came by the paper after an appellate court ordered his release from prison after a long legal fight. He wanted to introduce himself because we had written something favorable about his case.

Very cool guy, actually. Don't know what ever became of him.

He told us that his wish to chow down a dog before the government killed him had been a goof, a little protest about the absurdity of the whole thing--the death penalty, last meals and all.

"I love dogs," McMurtrey told us, adding with a chuckle that he meant as pets not as a meal.

McMurtrey came to mind with the news yesterday that Texas inmates will no longer get their choice of last meals, thanks to the late Lawrence Russell Brewer. Brewer was executed a few days ago for the hate crime murder of James Byrd Jr.

The white supremacist chained Byrd--a black man--to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death along a dirt road.

Brewer (no known relation to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer) asked for the following:

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.

Reports suggest that Brewer ate none of his feast, though we don't know why.

Texas politicos jumped all over the food fiasco, and prison officials there ended the last meal deal, effective immediately.

Somewhere, maybe, Jasper McMurtry is smiling.