HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas loss of life row inmate gained a reprieve Wednesday night from execution for killing a comfort retailer employee throughout a 2004 theft that garnered $1.25 after claiming the state was violating his spiritual freedom by not letting his pastor lay fingers on him on the time of his deadly injection.
The U.S. Supreme Court docket blocked John Henry Ramirez’s execution about three hours after he might have been executed. He’s condemned for fatally stabbing 46-year-old Pablo Castro, who labored at a Corpus Christi comfort retailer.
Ramirez was in a small holding cell a couple of toes from the Texas loss of life chamber on the Huntsville Unit jail when he was advised of the reprieve by Texas Division of Legal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.
“He was quiet once I let him know,” Clark stated. “He shook his head and stated: ‘Thanks very a lot. God bless you.'”
In its temporary order, the courtroom directed its clerk to ascertain a briefing schedule so Ramirez’s case could possibly be argued in October or November.
Prosecutors say Ramirez stabbed Castro 29 instances throughout a sequence of robberies wherein the inmate and two girls sought cash following a three-day drug binge. Ramirez fled to Mexico however was arrested 3½ years later.
Seth Kretzer, Ramirez’s lawyer, had argued the Texas Division of Legal Justice was violating the loss of life row inmate’s First Modification rights to apply his faith by denying his request to have his pastor contact him and vocalize prayers when he was executed. He known as the ban on vocal prayer a non secular “gag order.”
“It’s hostile towards faith, denying spiritual train on the exact second it’s most wanted: when somebody is transitioning from this life to the following,” Kretzer stated in courtroom paperwork.
Decrease appeals courts had rejected Ramirez’s argument.
The request by Ramirez, 37, is the newest conflict between loss of life row inmates and jail officers in Texas and different states over the presence of non secular advisers within the loss of life chamber.
In recent times, the Supreme Court docket has granted stays halting a number of executions in Texas and Alabama over the presence of clergy or non secular advisers within the loss of life chamber. The one execution stays the Supreme Court docket has granted in recent times have been associated to points of spiritual apply or discrimination.
In April, the Texas jail system reversed a two-year ban on permitting non secular advisers within the loss of life chamber. The ban got here after the U.S. Supreme Court docket in 2019 halted the execution of one other Texas inmate who had argued his spiritual freedom was being violated as a result of his Buddhist non secular adviser wasn’t allowed to accompany him.
Texas beforehand allowed state-employed clergy to accompany inmates into the chamber, however its jail employees included solely Christian and Muslim clerics. The brand new coverage permits an inmate’s accepted non secular adviser to be within the chamber however the two can not have any contact and vocal prayers in the course of the execution will not be allowed.
Texas jail officers say direct contact poses a safety threat and the vocal prayer could possibly be disruptive and would go towards sustaining an orderly course of. Apart from some jail officers, an inmate’s remaining assertion and a health care provider who publicizes the time of loss of life, nobody else normally formally speaks throughout an execution.
Dana Moore, Ramirez’s non secular adviser the final 4 years, stated the request to let him contact Ramirez was about letting the inmate apply his Christian religion and treating him “with a certain quantity of dignity.”
Moore and Kretzer say the laying of fingers is a symbolic act wherein spiritual leaders put their fingers on somebody as a way to supply consolation throughout prayer or confer a non secular blessing in the mean time of somebody’s loss of life.
“John’s sentence wasn’t loss of life and you’ll’t have any significant contact,” stated Moore, who’s pastor at Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi. “He’s paying for his crime. I suppose the query that might come up, is that not sufficient?”
However Mark Skurka, the lead prosecutor at Ramirez’s 2008 trial, stated whereas he believes a loss of life row inmate ought to have a non secular adviser on the time of execution, there must be limitations based mostly on safety considerations.
“Pablo Castro did not get to have any individual praying over him as this man stabbed him 29 instances. Pablo Castro did not get afforded such niceties and issues prefer to have a priest current,” stated Skurka, now retired after later serving as Nueces County district lawyer.
Castro, who had 9 kids, had labored on the comfort retailer for greater than a decade when he was killed.
“He was an excellent man. He would assist folks out within the neighborhood. Everyone preferred him,” Skurka stated.
Two girls who took half within the robberies and had been convicted on lesser prices stay in jail.
Six extra executions are scheduled for later this 12 months in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state.