Supreme Court rules in favor of religious death row inmate
The justices Thursday said John Henry Ramirez likely has the right to have his pastor lay hands on him and pray out loud in the execution chamber. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had denied Ramirez’s request to block Texas from executing him without his pastor’s requested participation. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 to reverse that decision, stopping Texas from executing Ramirez under its current protocols. Justice Clarence Thomas was the only dissenter.
What’s at stake? Ramirez was scheduled for lethal injection last year for murdering a convenience store clerk in 2004. Texas’ execution procedures banned clergy from touching inmates or praying audibly in the execution chamber, which Ramirez claimed violated his religious liberty rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The Supreme Court justices found that those rules likely do burden Ramirez’s free exercise of religion and don’t achieve the state’s goals in the least restrictive way possible.
Dig deeper: Read Steve West’s report in Liberties digging into the background of the case.
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