(ConservativeInsider.org) – Criminals on death row know their time on Earth is coming to an end, and many try to prepare themselves as best they can. For some inmates, that involves asking a spiritual advisor to be present for their execution. However, the rules around just what an advisor can do are now in question. The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) just halted a Texas execution after the inmate appealed his case to the high court, asking that the prison allow his advisor to pray out loud and touch him during his death.
Felons and First Amendment Rights
In 2004, John Henry Ramirez stabbed 46-year-old Pablo Castro approximately 29 times while trying to rob a convenience store in Corpus Christi, Texas. After fleeing to Mexico for three-and-a-half years, police arrested him.
The Texas Department of Justice scheduled Ramirez’s execution for fatally stabbing Castro for Wednesday, September 8. He requested his spiritual advisor over the past four years, Dana Moore, be present to lay hands on him during his execution by lethal injection. He also asked that Moore be able to pray aloud, both common practices in the Christian faith.
However, Texas currently does not allow any contact or prayer during execution for safety reasons. With this in mind, Ramirez took his desires to court in hopes of being able to practice his religion on his deathbed. While Texas courts denied his request, SCOTUS agreed to hear his case.
Will SCOTUS Support Constitutional Rights for Felons?
In 2019, SCOTUS halted a similar Texas execution on the grounds of religious freedom. In that case, an inmate requested a Buddhist spiritual advisor. At the time, Texas only allowed state-employed clergy to attend executions, and there was no Buddhist advisor. Thus, the high court granted the delay. In April 2020, Texas changed its law to allow spiritual advisors in the death chamber.
The nation’s highest court is now set to hear Ramirez’s case in October or November. While Americans can understand this inmate’s request, the lead prosecutor in Ramirez’s trial reminded them that Castro, the victim in this case, was not afforded “niceties” like clergymen during his violent murder.
Now, the Supreme Court must decide if a convicted felon retains or loses their constitutional rights as a US citizen. Until then, many felons will remain on death row, unsure of what the next few months hold.
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