My name is Brian Price, the former Texas death row chef. I prepared almost 200 last meal requests during my ten-year tenure as the inmate who volunteered to accomplish this somewhat grim task. In my book, Meals To Die For, I revealed to the public (in some cases for the first time) what went on behind the scenes on the day of an execution. One of the revelations that I brought to the public's eye was that the condemned almost never received what they had requested for their last meal. TDCJ-ID policy was, and I believe still IS, that the last meal, no matter what the request, had to be put together from what was available in the prison kitchen commissary.
For instance, serial killer Kenneth McDuff asked for two T-bone steaks. He received ONE hamburger steak instead. David Allen Castillo September 23rd 1998 (13 years ago) requested this for his last meal:
24 soft-shell tacos
2 whole onions
1 chocolate milkshake
1 quart of milk
1 pack of Marlboro Cigarettes
He actually received the following for his last meal:
4 hardshell tacos
2 whole onions
1 chocolate milkshake
I received orders from my supervisor, Captain Faye Parkins, to prepare an amount of food that we felt would be more than enough for someone to eat, even if it was their final meal on earth. So the illusion painted by the press printing only the condemned inmates last meal request (which was given to me days before the execution) and not asking, and henceforth, printing, the meal they actually received has the public believing this false information. Senator Whitmire's ranting about saving the tax payer's dollars by stopping the last meal requests is absolutely ridiculous, and assonine. He has licked his index finger, held it up to the growing political winds, and turned in the direction that would benefit him politically. Just another self-interest seeking politician.
You want to talk about saving tax-payers dollars? Lets discuss the old Vita-Pro scandal that had TDC Director Andy Collins right in the middle of it. Or the Sex Offender Treatment Program which was created to treat serial rapists and child molesters, yet to fill the classes, any inmate with a past history of anything from urinating on the side of the road, to teenage lovers were put in this class at the tune of what I believe at the time was $36,000 per inmate. Wasting the tax-payers dollars on last meal requests? Give me a break!
I've appeared in ten different documentaries since I've been home, all focusing on the last meals. Last Supper, the most informative, is on the documentary channel and can be viewed on their website. PBS had a three night special called, "The Meaning of Food" which is available on their website. My contribution to that special was a segment called, "An Act of Grace". I implore everyone to view these. And my book, "Meals To Die For", is available on the web at mealstodiefor.com, and at the Prison Museum in Huntsville, Texas. My book pretty much tells it all as it really happened.
Here's my take on all of this crap that Senator Whitmire is slinging. If it is the taxpayers dollars he is worried about, then I offer this. I have my own restaurant on a lake near Crockett, Texas called, "The Way Station". I am offering to prepare, and or pay for, all of the last meal requests from this day forward. I extend this offer to any condemned inmate in Texas. Taxpayer's will be out NOTHING.
I'll close with this thought, Senator Whitmire and you cold-hearted public voices. What if that were someone you loved and cared about who was being executed? What if it was your brother, or sister, mother or father, son or daughter who was about to die by the executioner's hand? Would you be so calloused? Would you be in such a hurry to deny them a last meal? I think not.
My friend, Manny Lopez, was the porter assigned to clean the death chamber after the execution was over. He made this statement to me one day that had a big effect on how I viewed executions.
"Brian, he said, Cleaning the blood off of the gurney and picking up the bloody gause off the floor doesn't bother me. It's when I go into the witness room and I have to clean the window where that man's family was watching their loved one being killed. Hand prints, lipstick, smeared makeup from flowing tears...that's what bothers me."
So think about that. What if it were your loved one being murdered by the state? What if? Their families are victims too. Never forget that. Think about those executed who had children. These became victims through the stigma and humilation, embarrassment and finger pointing coupled with close-faced whispers on the school yards.
"Shhhh, she's the one whose father killed those people," I have no doubt this still goes on. Victims on both sides.
I'm not trying to minimize the crimes that led these men and women to the death chamber, but only trying to encourage everyone to look at both sides. Do we lower ourselves to that "eye for an eye" mentality, putting ourselves on the same level as the crime that was the catalyst that set the wheels of so called "Justice" in motion? Or do we inact the word, "Grace", defined as "Unmerited favor", and show the world that we are civilized in the good old USA. God Bless.
Brian D.Price Author/Chef