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One day before his scheduled execution, a Texas man on death row has filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to request that his pastor be allowed to lay hands on him as he dies.
Attorneys representing 37-year-old John Henry Ramirez sued the State of Texas in August for allegedly violating his constitutional rights, as previously reported. Ramirez’s team stated he was prohibited from exercising his religious beliefs when the state denied his spiritual advisor the opportunity to lay hands on him at his execution.
On Tuesday, just one day before his scheduled lethal injection, Ramirez filed an emergency request to the Supreme Court for a stay of execution. The petition claims that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice barred Pastor Dana Moore from laying hands on Ramirez. Furthermore, the petition cites a recent policy made by the TDCJ that would ban Moore from praying, reading scripture, speaking, or even moving his lips during the execution.
“In other words, Pastor Moore is compelled to stand in his little corner of the room like a potted plant,” stated Ramirez’s attorney, Seth Kretzer. “Even though his notarized affidavit explains that laying hands on a dying body – and vocalized prayers during the transformation from life to death – are intertwined with the ministrations he seeks to give Ramirez as part of their jointly subscribed system of faith.”
According to Ramirez’s lawyer, his client had pressed the issue for more than a year.
“Defendants acknowledge that he did not wait until the 11th-hour on the eve of his execution to file,” stated Kretzer.
In the lawsuit filed in August, attorneys claimed the TDCJ violated Ramirez’s religious rights as afforded to him by the constitution’s First Amendment free exercise clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.
“Even if he breathes through his mouth, the Warden may declare that Pastor Moore is trying to utter prohibited words of prayer,” Kretzer stated in Tuesday’s petition. “Ramirez will be executed without the spiritual advisor guaranteed to him under the constitution and RLUIPA.”
Pastor Dana Moore of Second Baptist in Corpus Christi has been Ramirez’s spiritual advisor since 2016, according to the August lawsuit. Attorney’s cited biblical scripture, including Acts 8:11-12 and Paul 19:1-6, as support of Ramirez’s Christian beliefs.
Ramirez was convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the 2004 murder of 46-year-old Pablo Castro, according to the Associated Press. Castro was taking out the trash at a Corpus Christi convenience store when he was stabbed to death 29 times.
Prosecutors said Ramirez, along with two women, killed Castro during a robbery spree at the tail end of a three-day drug binge. Ramirez then fled to Mexico but was apprehended three and a half years later.
The three suspects got away with only $1.25, according to the AP.
Ramirez initially wanted to expedite his execution but later changed his mind when he found out he had a paternal half-sister, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
In 2017, a federal court halted Ramirez’s scheduled execution when his new attorney filed a motion for a stay of execution on the grounds that a previous lawyer failed to file a clemency hearing, The Texas Tribune reported.
A later execution date was delayed in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I found God a long time ago, but I’m not gonna turn holy roller since I ruined my life,” Ramirez said during a 2011 psychological evaluation cited by the Caller-Times. “God ain’t going to save me.”
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