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Texas inmate who sought help from pastor gets execution date

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HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas death row inmate who got a reprieve when his demand that his pastor pray aloud and touch him as he received his lethal injection has sparked a legal debate over a new court date. execution.

A South Texas judge on Tuesday signed an order setting John Henry Ramirez’s execution for October 5.

Ramirez, 37, was due to be executed on September 8, 2021, but the U.S. Supreme Court blocked its execution and agreed to take his case to address the role of spiritual advisors in the death chamber.

Last month, the court said States must take into account the wishes of death row inmates who want their religious leaders to pray and touch them during their executions.

Seth Kretzer, Ramirez’s attorney, said Wednesday that a federal court in Houston is still considering a civil rights petition he filed on Ramirez’s behalf and that he does not believe an execution could have happened. place until it was resolved.

“Until it is assured that (Pastor Ramirez) will be permitted to touch and pray pursuant to Chief Justice Roberts’ warrant, my law firm will litigate Mr. Ramirez’s case to the gates of hell, or go all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, whichever comes first,” Kretzer said.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said he would not officially update the agency’s rules regarding spiritual advisors in the death chamber following the Supreme Court ruling. The agency said such detainee requests would be considered on a case-by-case basis and may be granted unless they pose a substantial security risk or are “outrageous”.

Lawyers for two Texas death row inmates slated for execution next – Carl Buntion April 21 and Melissa Lucio on April 27 – expressed concern that requests from their clients to allow spiritual advisors to pray aloud and touch them were not fully approved.

Other states and the federal government have recently carried out executions where audible prayer and some physical contact were permitted in the execution chamber.

Last year, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections agreed to develop a policy for ministers to be inside the death chamber during executions, beginning with the December execution of Bigler Stouffer. Reverend Howard Potts read the scriptures and laid hands on Stouffer during his lethal injection and said the inmate “was totally at peace”. A minister was also allowed into Oklahoma’s death chamber during the January execution of Donald Grant.

The Supreme Court’s decision in March came after the Texas prison system overturned a two-year ban on spiritual advisors in the death chamber in April 2021, but said they could not speak to or touch the inmate.

Ramirez is on death row for killing a Corpus Christi convenience store employee during a 2004 robbery. Ramirez stabbed the man, Pablo Castro, 29 times and stole $1.25 from him.