Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Condemned inmate gives up hunger strike

March 26, 2007, 9:43PM

Condemned inmate gives up hunger strike

A condemned man from Houston gave up his six-week hunger strike Monday when he ate carrot cake and a sandwich given to him by a visitor, a prison spokeswoman said.

Convicted murderer Roy Lee Pippin, 51, had vowed not to eat until his scheduled execution Thursday to call attention to what he said are deplorable conditions on Texas' death row. He had been drinking only water since Feb. 19.

On Monday, he allowed a visitor to buy snacks for him from a vending machine and was seen downing the food, said Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Visitors, she said, are allowed to bring in $20 worth of coins to buy inmates food. A guard then passes the food to the inmates so that contraband cannot be smuggled into the unit.

"He didn't say why he gave up the hunger strike," Lyons said.

Part of drug ring

A Web site dedicated to Pippin's case had not been updated late Monday with word of his discontinued hunger strike.

Pippin, part of a Colombian drug ring, was sentenced to die for the 1994 kidnapping and shooting deaths of Miami cousins Elmer and Fabio Buitrago. The cousins and two others were kidnapped and taken to Pippin's southwest Houston air-conditioning service warehouse to be interrogated about $2 million in missing drug money. Three later were found dead. The fourth managed to escape.

During a recent interview from death row, Pippin said he had lost 49 pounds during his strike, but prison officials said his actual weight loss was 28 pounds.

Array of complaints

Among his complaints, Pippin said the guards treat inmates inhumanely, prison meal portions are too small, and inmates are forced to spend most of their days confined to their cells after work programs were eliminated.

Pippin had promised he would put up a struggle with prison guards sent to escort him to the execution chamber, although he questioned what kind of shape he would be in after his hunger strike.

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