In her new book, …last meal (Common Courage Press), artist Jacquelyn C. Black recreates and photographs the final food to pass the lips of 23 people executed by the state of Texas.Shown here are fried catfish, fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, green salad, fresh carrots, and a coke—the food James Beathard ate before he was strapped to the gurney.After Beathard, who is pictured in the book, was convicted on capital murder charges, the prosecutor’s key witness recanted his testimony. Subsequently, three members of the Texas parole board recommended that Beathard be granted clemency. He was executed anyway on December 9, 1999.In his last statement, Beathard said:Couple of matters I want to talk about since this is one of the few times people will listen to what I have to say. The United States has gotten to a place now where there is zero respect for human life. My death is just a symptom of a bigger illness. At some point the government has got to wake up and stop doing things to destroy other countries and killing innocent children. The ongoing embargo and sanctions against places like Iran and Iraq, Cuba and other places. They are not doing anything to change the world and they are harming innocent children. … I would like to address the State of Texas and specially Joe Price, the district attorney who put me here. … I’m dying tonight based on testimony, that all parties, me, the man who gave the testimony, the prosecutor he used, knew was a lie. … That is really all I have to say except that I love my family and nobody, nobody has got a better family than me.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.