Loading...

States Must Allow Prayer, Even Touch During Executions, Supreme Court Says

March 25, 2022 by Dan McCue
States Must Allow Prayer, Even Touch During Executions, Supreme Court Says
The U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — States must accommodate the wishes of death row inmates who ask to have a priest or other representative of their faith pray aloud and even comfort them with a touch during their executions, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The case before the court was brought by John Henry Ramirez, who was sentenced to die for the 2004 murder and robbery of a Corpus Christi, Texas, convenience store worker. 

Ramirez stabbed the worker, Pablo Castro, 29 times and stole just $1.25. As his execution approached, Ramirez challenged state rules that would have forced his pastor to remain silent and separate from him as he is put to death.

Writing for the majority in the 8-to-1 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote “it is possible to accommodate Ramirez’s sincere religious beliefs without delaying or impeding his execution.” 

Roberts noted that Texas “appears to have long allowed prison chaplains to pray with inmates in the execution chamber, deciding to prohibit such prayer only in the last several years.” 

He also rejected concerns that allowing a pastor to touch an inmate could interfere with the intravenous lines that carry the drugs used to carry out the execution. 

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, writing before his recent hospitalization for the flu that Ramirez repeatedly attempted to delay his execution and his current lawsuit “is but the latest iteration in an 18-year pattern of evasion.”

Roberts’ opinion also urged states to think about the religious needs of inmates in the context of executions and proactively adopt policies. 

“If states adopt clear rules in advance, it should be the rare case that requires last-minute resort to the federal courts,” he wrote. 

In an email to The Well News, Robert Hurst, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said, “We respect the court’s decision and will be making appropriate modifications to our practices to align with today’s ruling.”

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

In The News

Health

Voting

Criminal Justice

November 19, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Theranos Founder Sentenced to 11 Years for Fraud With Blood Testing Technology

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A judge in San Jose, California, on Friday sentenced former Theranos, Inc., Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes... Read More

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A judge in San Jose, California, on Friday sentenced former Theranos, Inc., Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes to more than 11 years in prison for defrauding investors with phony blood-testing technology. "I regret my failings with every cell of my body," a tearful... Read More

Slavery Is on the Ballot for Voters in Five US States

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — More than 150 years after slaves were freed in the U.S., voters in five states will... Read More

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — More than 150 years after slaves were freed in the U.S., voters in five states will soon decide whether to close loopholes that led to the proliferation of a different form of slavery — forced labor by people convicted of certain crimes.... Read More

October 12, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Former eBay Employees Sentenced After Harassing E-Retailers’ Critics

BOSTON — A federal judge in Boston sentenced more former eBay employees Tuesday after they pleaded guilty to criminal charges... Read More

BOSTON — A federal judge in Boston sentenced more former eBay employees Tuesday after they pleaded guilty to criminal charges from a harassment campaign against two journalists who criticized the online retailer in their blog. Prosecutors called the harassment “unimaginably cruel” for a scheme that included... Read More

August 29, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
DC Sniper to Be Resentenced for Rampage That Killed 10

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A Maryland court set off controversy over juvenile justice by ruling Friday that a murderer convicted... Read More

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A Maryland court set off controversy over juvenile justice by ruling Friday that a murderer convicted of killing six people must be resentenced because he was 17 years old at the time. The convict, Lee Boyd Malvo, was one of two people... Read More

July 26, 2022
by Madeline Hughes
Titanium Blockchain CEO Pleads Guilty to Fraud in $21M Scheme

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A cryptocurrency CEO pleaded guilty to fraud Friday, according to a statement from the Department of... Read More

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A cryptocurrency CEO pleaded guilty to fraud Friday, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Michael Alan Stollery, 54, of Reseda, California, was the CEO of Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services Inc. TBIS raised $21 million from investors in the U.S.... Read More

July 1, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Trump Advisor Bannon Seeks a Trial Delay on Contempt Charge

WASHINGTON — Former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon is asking a Washington, D.C., federal judge to delay his trial... Read More

WASHINGTON — Former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon is asking a Washington, D.C., federal judge to delay his trial for contempt of Congress after recent hearings of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol created an "unprecedented level... Read More

News From The Well