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February 6, 2019

Eleventh Circuit panel grants stay of execution in Alabama for Muslim death row prisoner

I highlighted in recent posts here and here the notable religious claims being made by Domineque Ray, who is scheduled to be executed by Alabama on Thursday.  A helpful reader alerted me to this new unanimous 28-page panel ruling from the Eleventh Circuit which grants a stay.  Here is how the opinion starts and a few key paragraph within:

Petitioner Domineque Ray has moved this Court for an emergency stay of his execution, scheduled to take place at 6:00 p.m. (CST) on February 7, 2019 at the Holman Correctional Facility (“Holman”) in Atmore, Alabama, for the 1995 rape, robbery, and murder of fifteen-year-old Tiffany Harville. He also appeals from the determination of the district court denying his emergency motion for a stay and dismissing two of his claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., and under § 1983 and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment....

During the January 23 meeting with the Warden, Ray made three requests for the accommodation of his religious beliefs: first, that his Imam be present in order to provide spiritual guidance for him at the time of his death; second, that the institutional Christian Chaplain be excluded from the chamber; and, finally, that he not be required to undergo an autopsy because it conflicted with his religious beliefs.  The Warden denied the first two requests and explained that she had no decisional authority over the autopsy....

After review of this exceedingly limited record, we reject the district court’s analysis, and its refusal to grant an emergency stay in the face of what we see as a powerful Establishment Clause claim.  Because Ray has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the Establishment Clause and because the other equitable factors tip in his favor, Ray’s emergency motion for stay is granted.  We direct the Clerk of Court to expedite the appeal of Ray’s case so that we may promptly address and resolve these claims.

It will be interesting to see if and how Alabama pursues further appeal of this ruling either to the full Eleventh Circuit or to the US Supreme Court. Stay tuned.

Prior related posts:

UPDATE: As reported in this AP article, Alabama completed this execution following the vacating of the stay: "Dominique Ray, 42, was pronounced dead at 10:12 p.m. of a lethal injection at the state prison in Atmore."

February 6, 2019 at 02:06 PM | Permalink


How burdensome could it possibly be for Alabama to accommodate these modest requests?

Posted by: John | Feb 6, 2019 2:45:05 PM

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