The court prevents the execution and will weigh the prisoners’ claims of religious freedom

The court prevents the execution and will weigh the prisoners’ claims of religious freedom


Capital case

The Supreme Court agreed to postpone the execution of John Ramirez, who was originally scheduled to die in Texas on Wednesday night. The last-minute breathing time will allow the judges to fully consider Ramirez’s request to allow his pastor to make physical contact with Ramirez and hear prayers in the execution room during Ramirez’s execution.

Ramirez Urgent application This is the latest in a series of shadow file requests involving spiritual consultants who executed the death penalty in the past two years.But the judges are now ready to weigh the prisoner’s right to be accompanied by a spiritual counselor at the last minute more clearly: Suspend the execution of Ramirez’s brief order, The court agreed to hear Ramirez’s appeal against his regular case file this fall.

Ramirez was sentenced to death for the murder of Pablo Castro, a convenience store clerk in 2004. He asked his Baptist priest Dana Moore to put his hand on Ramirez’s body, Ramirez prayed loudly when he was executed. After Texas refused to approve the request, Ramirez went to the Federal Court in August.Last week, the District Court rejected Ramirez’s application to postpone the execution of the death penalty, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit also rejected it. Refused He asked for intervention.

The four previous cases in court all focused on the question of whether the spiritual master can appear in the execution room. In February 2019, the court Alabama allowed The country refused to allow Ray to execute the Muslim man Dominic Ray after having an imam by his side in the execution room, even though the country at the time allowed a Christian priest in the room. The court stated in its brief order that Ray only sought relief 10 days before the scheduled execution.

One month later, the court Ban Texas The execution of a Buddhist prisoner Patrick Murphy is prohibited unless he is allowed to have a Buddhist priest by his side. In agreeing to the decision to prevent Murphy’s execution, Judge Brett Kavanaugh emphasized that according to the national policy in force at the time, Muslim and Christian prisoners were allowed to have spiritual counselors with them in the execution room, but prisoners of other faiths- Like Murphy-no. Kavanaugh admitted that although Texas may have good reasons to restrict access to the execution room, the solution is to exclude all spiritual advisors from the execution room, rather than distinguishing prisoners based on religious beliefs.

After the court issued an order in Murphy’s case, Texas initially adopted a new policy to exclude all spiritual advisors from the execution chamber. This led Ruben Gutierrez, a Catholic prisoner, to the Federal Court to challenge the new policy. In June 2020, the Supreme Court Execution of Gutierrez Suspending execution and instructing the district court to determine whether allowing the prisoner to choose his spiritual mentor would endanger the safety of the execution. In January 2021, after the District Court reached a disagreement, the Supreme Court Send Gutierrez’s case back to the lower court Let them re-examine the case based on these findings. The state of Texas later revised its policy again to allow mental counselors in the execution room.

Finally, in February 2021, the court Ban Alabama Execution of Willie Smith III unless it allows him to have his pastor by his side in the execution room.

Ramirez’s case involves a slightly different question: what kind of help can (and cannot) the mental counselor provide during the execution. Ramirez came to the Supreme Court on Tuesday and asked the judge to suspend his execution and review his case on the merits. He emphasized that the application he submitted was not to postpone the execution of the death penalty because he first raised the question of a spiritual counselor a year ago. Ramirez believes that the state’s refusal to allow Moore to touch him and pray loudly is a violation of his constitutional rights and federal laws that guarantee prisoners’ religious rights. In accordance with Texas policy, Ramirez emphasized in his reply briefing on Wednesday that the execution room would be “a godless vacuum” and Moore was “no different from potted plants.”

The State of Texas countered that Ramirez did not follow the procedures required by the Federal Prison Litigation Reform Act before filing the lawsuit-specifically, he should ask prison officials to allow Moore to pray loudly before filing the lawsuit. In any case, Texas went on to say that Ramirez could not win because he had to do more than just claim that Moore’s physical contact and vocal prayers were “necessary to his faith tradition” during the execution. The state argued that Ramirez must also show that Texas policies placed a heavy burden on his religious activities. But Texas did not force Ramirez to do anything against his religious beliefs, the state insisted. It just refuses to meet all his religious needs, which is not a heavy burden. Texas warned that if the Supreme Court approves Ramirez’s request, the federal court will eventually have to “micro-manage” all the details of future executions.

In an order issued shortly before 10pm Eastern Time, the judges agreed to suspend Ramirez’s execution and hear his appeal on the merits. The court stated that it should expedite the trial of the case and set the oral argument in October or November. There were no public objections to Wednesday’s order.

This article is Originally published in Howe on the Court.

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