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September 8, 2021

SCOTUS stays Texas execution and grants cert on death row inmate's request for pastor's touch during execution

Texas was scheduled to execute John Ramirez this evening, but the Supreme Court blocked the effort as reported here at SCOTUSblog:

The Supreme Court agreed to postpone the execution of John Ramirez, who was scheduled to die on Wednesday night in Texas.  The last-minute respite will allow the justices to fully consider Ramirez’s request that his pastor be allowed to physically touch Ramirez and audibly pray in the execution chamber while Ramirez is put to death.

Ramirez’s emergency application was the latest in a series of shadow-docket requests in the past two years involving spiritual advisers at executions. But the justices are now poised to weigh in more definitively on the rights of inmates to have spiritual advisers at their side in their final moments: In the brief order putting Ramirez’s execution on hold, the court agreed to hear Ramirez’s appeal on its regular docket this fall.

Ramirez, who was sentenced to death for the 2004 murder of convenience-store clerk Pablo Castro, asked to have his Baptist pastor, Dana Moore, put his hands on Ramirez’s body and pray out loud as Ramirez is executed.  After Texas refused to grant that request, Ramirez went to federal court in August.  The district court rejected Ramirez’s bid to postpone his execution last week, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit turned down his plea to intervene.

The four cases that have previously reached the court centered on whether spiritual advisers could be present in the execution chamber at all....  Ramirez’s case involved a slightly different issue: what kind of aid a spiritual adviser can (and cannot) provide during an execution.  Ramirez came to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the justices to put his execution on hold and to review his case on the merits.  He stressed that his filing was not a last-minute effort to delay his execution, because he had first raised the spiritual-adviser question over a year ago.  The state’s refusal to allow Moore to touch him and pray out loud, Ramirez argued, violates both his constitutional rights and the federal law guaranteeing religious rights for inmates.  Under the Texas policy, Ramirez emphasized in his reply brief on Wednesday, the execution chamber would be “a godless vacuum,” with Moore “no different from a potted plant.”...

In an order issued shortly before 10 p.m. EDT, the justices agreed to stay Ramirez’s execution and to hear his appeal on the merits. The court indicated that the case should be fast-tracked, with oral argument set for either October or November. There were no public dissents from Wednesday’s order.

September 8, 2021 at 11:10 PM | Permalink


Strange times. Strange Court. Very nice that they stay an execution to deterimine viability of religious freedom claim et. al.; Yet same Court refuses to stay Texas anti-abortion law--a ruling that de facto ends abortions in Texas. Religious fervor anyone?

Posted by: Michael Levine | Sep 9, 2021 12:38:01 PM

The general issue of state obligations respecting spiritual advisors in the execution chamber repeatedly came to the Court & they disposed of it in various ways via the shadow docket. Splitting them in various ways. So, actually taking the case -- on an expedited basis -- is a sensible use of their discretion.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 9, 2021 12:46:09 PM

Makes me think of Phil Collins—Invisible Touch.

Posted by: kotodama | Sep 9, 2021 5:59:34 PM

Joe, sensible to end abortions in Texas?

Posted by: Michael Levine | Sep 11, 2021 4:38:30 PM

The taking of the spiritual advisors case was sensible given there were multiple disputes on the question, not providing clarity.

That is what I mean by "sensible." Nothing else. No, it's not sensible to end abortions in Texas.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 8, 2021 11:11:49 PM

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