Texas man will get execution delay over pastor’s contact request


A Texas demise row inmate gained a reprieve Wednesday night from execution for killing a convenience store worker throughout a 2004 theft that garnered $1.25 after claiming the state was violating his non secular freedom by not letting his pastor lay fingers on him on the time of his deadly injection.

The U.S. Supreme Courtroom blocked John Henry Ramirez’s execution about three hours after he may 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 demise chamber on the Huntsville Unit jail when he was informed of the reprieve by Texas Division of Prison Justice spokesman Jason Clark.


This undated photo provided by The Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John Henry Ramirez. Ramirez, a Texas death row inmate set to be executed Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2020, for killing a convenience store worker more than 17 years earlier in a robbery that garnered $1.25, is asking that his pastor be allowed to lay hands on him as he dies by lethal injection.  (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

This undated photograph offered by The Texas Division of Prison Justice reveals John Henry Ramirez. Ramirez, a Texas demise row inmate set to be executed Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2020, for killing a comfort retailer employee greater than 17 years earlier in a theft that garnered $1.25, is asking that his pastor be allowed to put fingers on him as he dies by deadly injection.  (Texas Division of Prison Justice by way of AP)

“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 transient order, the court docket 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 occasions throughout a collection of robberies through which the inmate and two ladies 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 Prison Justice was violating the demise row inmate’s First Modification rights to observe 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 religious “gag order.”

“It’s hostile towards faith, denying non secular train on the exact second it’s most wanted: when somebody is transitioning from this life to the following,” Kretzer stated in court docket paperwork.

Decrease appeals courts had rejected Ramirez’s argument.

The request by Ramirez, 37, is the most recent conflict between demise row inmates and jail officers in Texas and other states over the presence of religious advisers within the demise chamber.

Lately, the Supreme Courtroom has granted stays halting a number of executions in Texas and Alabama over the presence of clergy or spiritual advisers within the demise chamber. The one execution stays the Supreme Courtroom has granted lately have been associated to points of spiritual observe or discrimination.

In April, the Texas jail system reversed a two-year ban on permitting religious advisers within the demise chamber. The ban got here after the U.S. Supreme Courtroom in 2019 halted the execution of one other Texas inmate who had argued his non secular freedom was being violated as a result of his Buddhist religious adviser wasn’t allowed to accompany him. That inmate, Patrick Murphy, stays on demise row.

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 permitted religious adviser to be within the chamber however the two can not have any contact and vocal prayers throughout the execution usually are not 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 ultimate assertion and a physician who proclaims the time of demise, nobody else normally formally speaks throughout an execution.

Dana Moore, Ramirez’s religious adviser the final 4 years, stated the request to let him contact Ramirez was about letting the inmate observe his Christian religion and treating him “with a certain quantity of dignity.”

Moore and Kretzer say the laying of fingers is a symbolic act through which non secular leaders put their fingers on somebody with a purpose to supply consolation throughout prayer or confer a religious blessing in the meanwhile of somebody’s demise.

“John’s sentence wasn’t demise and you may’t have any significant contact,” stated Moore, who’s pastor at Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi. “He’s paying for his crime. I assume the query that may come up, is that not sufficient?”

However Mark Skurka, the lead prosecutor at Ramirez’s 2008 trial, stated whereas he believes a demise row inmate ought to have a religious adviser on the time of execution, there must be limitations based mostly on safety considerations.

“Pablo Castro didn’t get to have any person praying over him as this man stabbed him 29 occasions. Pablo Castro didn’t get afforded such niceties and issues wish to have a priest current,” stated Skurka, now retired after later serving as Nueces County district legal professional.

Castro, who had 9 youngsters, had labored on the comfort retailer for greater than a decade when he was killed.

“He was a very good man. He would assist folks out within the neighborhood. All people preferred him,” Skurka stated.

Two ladies 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.

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