September 15, 2021
John Henry Ramirez stabbed a convenience store clerk 29 times during a robbery that netted him $1.25. A Texas jury convicted him and sentenced him to death, and he was scheduled to be executed last week.
The Supreme Court, however, blocked the execution pending its consideration of whether Ramirez’s right to freedom of religion are violated when the State prohibits a pastor to lay hands on him while his lethal injection is being administered.
There’s some history to this.
In 2019, the Supreme Court halted an execution when a prisoner argued that his religious freedom was being violated because his Buddhist spiritual advisor was prohibited from accompanying him in the death chamber. At the time, Texas law allowed state-employed clergy to accompany inmates being put to death, but its prison staff only included Christian and Muslim clerics. In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas did what Texas does, and banned the presence of ANY spiritual advisor. That ban was then reversed earlier this year. But the law prohibits both physical contact between the advisor and the condemned as well as vocal prayers, ostensibly for security reasons.
I mean, think of how disruptive THAT would be.
Oral arguments are expected to be held in the next couple of months.