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Letter to editor: Last meal before execution


It is time to put an end to the practice of allowing condemned prisoners to choose a "last meal" before executions.

Georgia recently provided convicted murderer J.W. Ledford Jr. his requested meal, which consisted of a filet mignon steak wrapped in bacon with pepper jack cheese, a large
serving of fries, 10 chicken tenders, a fried pork chop, a Bloomin' Onion, a pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, a portion of sherbet and an ice cold Sprite to wash it all down.

Ledford was convicted of murdering his neighbor, Dr. Harry Buchanan Johnston Jr., in Murray County in 1992. Johnston was killed with a pocketknife. The elderly doctor, who had delivered his attacker into the world, was nearly decapitated by Ledford.

Medical experts at trial said Dr. Johnston probably lived seven or eight minutes after the fatal wounds were inflicted. Ledford then assaulted the doctor's wife, tying her up and robbing her.

I have yet to find any information detailing what options, if any, Ledford may have provided his victim, related to a "last meal" request. What I do know is that he entered the execution chamber with a big grin on his face, reciting quotes from the movie "Cool Hand Luke" and telling everyone in attendance to "kiss his white trash ass!"

Gregory Paul Lawler was executed in Georgia last October for killing 28-year-old police officer John Sowa. Lawler was charged with shooting Sowa and his partner Pat Cocciolone, both in the head as they responded to a domestic dispute. Sowa's wounds were mortal, and Cocciolone, although severely injured, survived the attempt on her life. In court, Lawler expressed no remorse and angrily insisted he was justified in shooting the officers.

Before his execution, Lawler requested and was given a ribeye steak, a baked potato with sour cream, asparagus, dinner rolls with butter, French onion soup, strawberries, pistachio ice cream, milk and apple juice.

In 2011, white-supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer was sentenced to death for the racially motivated murder of James Byrd Jr. in Texas. Brewer, along with two accomplices, took Byrd to a country road, beat him severely, urinated on him and chained him by his ankles to a pickup truck before dragging him for more than a mile.

Forensic evidence suggested that Byrd tried to keep his head up while being dragged. An autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive during much of the dragging. Byrd died after his right arm and head were severed when his body hit a culvert. The day before his execution, Brewer stated to an interviewer, "As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. No, I'd do it all over again, to tell you the truth."

For his "last meal", Brewer was given his requested feast of two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions, a triple bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, a bowl of fried okra with ketchup, a pound of barbecue with half a loaf of white bread, a portion of three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza (topped with pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon, and sausage), a pint of Blue Bell ice cream, a slab of peanut-butter fudge
with crushed peanuts, and three root beers. However, Brewer didn't eat any of it. He said he wasn't really hungry.

Texas Sen. John Whitmire, upon hearing of Brewer's mockery of the longstanding last-meal practice, said, "Enough is enough. It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege, one which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim."

Thanks to Whitmire and others like him, Texas no longer offers such elaborate last meals. They eat what other prisoners are served.

I hope that our state leaders here in Georgia and elsewhere will soon follow suit.

Sheriff Chris Steverson

Telfair County

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