Texas death row inmate can ask spiritual advisor to ‘lay hands’ and pray aloud during execution

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The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Texas death row inmate can ask his spiritual advisor to pray aloud and “lay hands on” upon him during his execution, setting new guidelines that will govern similar requests in other prisons. other prisons in the country. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision 8-1. Judge Clarence Thomas filed a dissent. The dispute is the latest case the court has considered asking it to balance an inmate’s request for religious accommodation during execution and a state’s wish to respect security and safety concerns in the chamber The case arose after the court in September agreed to block the execution of John Henry Ramirez while judges considered his claims about his pastor. Current policy in Texas is to allow a pastor in the room, but the pastor cannot speak to or physically touch the inmate. Ramirez was convicted of robbing and murdering Pablo Castro in 2004, stabbing him 29 times in a convenience store parking lot. He also robbed a second victim at knifepoint and fled to Mexico, evading arrest for 3½ years, according to the Texas attorney general’s office. The ruling does not change Ramirez’s death sentence. A lawyer for Ramirez — who did not plead innocent — argued that the Texas policy violated the detainee’s rights under the 2000 federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Federal law provides that the government cannot significantly burden an inmate’s religious exercise unless it can prove that it is the least restrictive means. to achieve the interest of the government. Roberts, writing for the majority, said Ramirez would likely succeed in showing that Texas politics “considerably burden his exercise of religion” and that the state had not done enough to show he had a compelling reason for his politics. The leader noted that there is a “rich history of clerical prayer at the time of a prisoner’s execution, going back long before the foundation.” He said that if audible prayer could pose a risk of interference with proceedings, the state could impose restrictions, such as “limiting the volume” of prayer or requiring silence during critical points in the process. Likewise, he maintained that the prison currently allows spiritual advisors to stand one meter from the stretcher. site of any intravenous line would greatly increase the risk,” Roberts wrote. The inmate sought to have Moore in the execution chamber, audibly praying and laying hands on him in the final moments of his life, because this process is deeply rooted in his faith. Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone had pointed out that Ramirez had been sentenced to death for ‘brutally murdering a father of nine for change’ and argued that he only recently asked his pastor about him. lay hands on and talk in prayer. He told judges it was time to “end these tactics” that allow prisoners to delay their executions, sometimes for months and years, while legal challenges unfold. “Today’s ruling is significant more for what it isn’t than what it is,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and law school professor. University of Texas. “From the briefs and the argument, it seemed genuinely possible that judges would reconsider when and how courts should determine whether a litigant’s religious beliefs are sincere.” “Instead, the majority opinion narrowly holds that Ramirez has a viable claim to have an officiant in the execution chamber with him to pray aloud and touch him. This will not change Ramirez’s ultimate fate, but it avoids much more review of how the court treats the religious beliefs of all litigants, including death row inmates,” Vladeck said. Judge Clarence Thomas, who was hospitalized this week with what the court called an infection, dissented, detailing the circumstances of Ramirez’s crime and accusing Ramirez of merely delaying a “legally imposed” sentence from Texas. Thomas, the court’s senior conservative judge, said the majority should have denied Ramirez the ability to “manipulate the judicial process”. He accused the inmate’s attorney of using the federal law at issue “in an abusive manner” and that the victim’s family members will now continue to suffer “recurring emotional wounds.” beliefs,” Thomas said, but “like any tool, it can be abused.” Courts have time to consider claims.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Texas sentenced to death could ask his spiritual adviser to pray aloud and “lay hands on” on him during his execution, setting new guidelines that will govern similar requests in other prisons across the country.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Ruling 8-1. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissent.

The dispute is the latest case the court has considered asking it to weigh an inmate’s request for religious accommodation during execution against a state’s desire to respect security and safety concerns in bedroom.

The case arose after the court agreed in September to block the execution of John Henry Ramirez while judges consider his claims about his pastor. Current policy in Texas is to allow a pastor in the room, but the pastor cannot speak to or physically touch the inmate.

Ramirez was convicted of robbing and murdering Pablo Castro in 2004, stabbing him 29 times in a convenience store parking lot. He also robbed a second victim at knifepoint and fled to Mexico, evading arrest for 3½ years, according to the Texas attorney general’s office.

The ruling does not change Ramirez’s death sentence.

A lawyer for Ramirez – who did not plead innocent – argued that the Texas policy violated the detainee’s rights under the 2000 federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Federal law provides that the government cannot significantly burden an inmate’s religious exercise unless the government can show that it is the least restrictive means of achieving the government’s interest.

Roberts, writing for the Majority, said Ramirez would likely succeed in showing that Texas politics “considerably burdened his exercise of religion” and that the state had not done enough to show he had a compelling reason for his politics. The leader noted that there is a “rich history of clerical prayer at the time of a prisoner’s execution, going back long before the foundation.”

He said that if audible prayer could pose a risk of interference with proceedings, the state could impose reasonable restrictions, such as “limiting the volume” of prayer or requiring silence during critical points in the process. Likewise, he argued that the prison currently allows spiritual advisors to stand three feet from the stretcher.

“We don’t see how letting the spiritual advisor stand slightly closer, reach out and touch a part of the prisoner’s body well away from the site of any IV line would significantly increase the risk,” Roberts wrote.

Reverend Dana Moore of the Second Baptist Church in Ramirez’s hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas served as Ramirez’s minister. The inmate sought to have Moore in the execution chamber, audibly praying and laying hands on him in the final moments of his life, as this process is deeply rooted in his faith.

Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone pointed out that Ramirez had been sentenced to death for “the brutal murder of a father of nine for pocket change” and claimed he had only recently asked her pastor to lay hands on her and speak in prayer. He told judges it was time to “end these tactics” that allow prisoners to delay their executions, sometimes for months and years, while legal challenges unfold.

“Today’s decision is more important for what it is not than for what it is,” said CNN Supreme Court analyst and law school professor Steve Vladeck. ‘University of Texas. “From the briefs and the argument, it seemed genuinely possible that judges would reconsider when and how courts should determine whether a litigant’s religious beliefs are sincere.”

“Instead, the majority opinion narrowly holds that Ramirez has a viable claim to having an officiant in the execution chamber with him to pray aloud and touch him. This will not change Ramirez’s ultimate fate, but it avoids a much larger overhaul of how the court treats the religious beliefs of all litigants, including death row inmates,” Vladeck said.

Dissent of Thomas

Judge Clarence Thomas, who was hospitalized this week with what the court called an infection, dissented, detailing the circumstances of Ramirez’s crime and accusing Ramirez of simply delaying a sentence “legally imposed” by Texas.

Thomas, the court’s senior conservative judge, said the majority should have denied Ramirez the ability to “manipulate the judicial process”. He accused the inmate’s attorney of using the federal law at issue “in an abusive manner” and that the victim’s family members will now continue to suffer “recurring emotional wounds.”

“In RLUIPA, Congress has created a powerful tool with which prisoners can protect their sincere religious beliefs,” Thomas said, but “like any tool, it can be misused.”

A divided federal appeals court previously allowed Ramirez’s execution to continue, despite dissenting from a judge who said the execution should be blocked to give the courts time to consider the claims.

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