Texas must let pastor of Texas inmate touch him and pray aloud during execution, Supreme Court rules

ByJessica Gresko, Associated Press AP logo
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Texas death row statistics
TEXAS DEATH ROW STATISTICS: From the average age of a person on death row to the longest time spent there, here's what to know about Texas executions.

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Thursday sided with a Texas death row inmate seeking to have his pastor be allowed to pray out loud and touch him during his execution.

The high court's decision won't keep John Henry Ramirez from being executed. But the justices, in an 8-1 decision, rejected Texas' defense of its policy of allowing an inmate's spiritual adviser to be present in the death chamber but without speaking or touching the inmate.

The video above is from a previous report.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a majority opinion that Texas "appears to have long allowed prison chaplains to pray with inmates in the execution chamber, deciding to prohibit such prayer only in the last several years." He also rejected concerns that allowing Ramirez to be touched could interfere with the IV lines that carry the drugs used to carry out the execution. "Texas could allow touch on a part of the body away from IV lines, such as a prisoner's lower leg," he wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone justice to dissent, writing that Ramirez has engaged in repeated litigation tactics to delay his execution and that his current lawsuit "is but the latest iteration in an 18-year pattern of evasion."

RELATED: Texas man who stabbed store clerk 29 times gets execution delay over pastor's touch request

Executions in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state, had been delayed while the court considered the case.

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

Ramirez's lawyers sued after Texas said it would not allow his minister to pray audibly and touch him as he is being given a lethal injection. Lower courts had sided with Texas, but the Supreme Court halted his Sept. 8 execution to hear his case.