Texas death row inmate seeks pastor’s touch at execution

A Texas loss of life row inmate set to be executed Wednesday for killing a comfort retailer employee greater than 17 years in the past in a theft that garnered $1.25 is asking that his pastor be allowed to put palms on him as he dies by deadly injection.

The request by John Henry Ramirez, 37, is the most recent conflict between loss of life row inmates and jail officers in Texas and different states over the presence of non secular advisers within the loss of life chamber.

Ramirez was condemned for the 2004 killing of 46-year-old Pablo Castro as he took out the trash from a Corpus Christi comfort retailer. Prosecutors say Ramirez stabbed Castro 29 instances throughout a sequence of robberies by which the inmate and two ladies sought cash following a three-day drug binge. Ramirez fled to Mexico however was arrested 3½ years later. He’s set to be executed Wednesday night on the state penitentiary in Huntsville.

Ramirez’s request to have his non secular adviser contact him and vocalize prayers when he’s executed has been turned down by Texas jail officers, who’ve argued that direct contact poses a safety danger and the vocal prayer could possibly be disruptive.


A federal decide in Houston and the fifth U.S. Circuit Courtroom of Appeals have denied Ramirez’s request to remain his execution over the difficulty. An attraction is pending earlier than the U.S. Supreme Courtroom.

In April, the Texas jail system reversed a two-year ban on permitting non secular advisers within the loss of life chamber. The ban got here after the U.S. Supreme Courtroom in 2019 halted the execution of one other Texas inmate who had argued his non secular freedom was being violated as a result of his Buddhist non secular adviser wasn’t allowed to accompany him.

Texas beforehand allowed state-employed clergy to accompany inmates into the chamber, however its jail employees included solely Christian and Muslim clerics. The brand new coverage permits an inmate’s authorized non secular adviser to be within the chamber however the two can not have any contact and vocal prayers in the course of the execution usually are not allowed.

Seth Kretzer, Ramirez’s lawyer, has argued the Texas Division of Legal Justice is violating the loss of life row inmate’s First Modification rights to apply his faith. He referred to as the ban on vocal prayer a non secular “gag order.”

“It’s hostile towards faith, denying non secular train on the exact second it’s most wanted: when somebody is transitioning from this life to the following,” Kretzer stated in court docket paperwork.


Dana Moore, Ramirez’s non secular adviser the final 4 years, stated the request is about letting the inmate apply his Christian religion and treating him “with a certain quantity of dignity.”

“John’s sentence wasn’t loss of life and you may’t have any significant contact,” stated Moore, who’s pastor at Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi. “He’s paying for his crime. I suppose the query that might come up, is that not sufficient?”

However Mark Skurka, the lead prosecutor at Ramirez’s 2008 trial, stated whereas he believes a loss of life row inmate ought to have a non secular adviser on the time of execution, there should be limitations based mostly on safety issues.

“Pablo Castro didn’t get to have any person praying over him as this man stabbed him 29 instances. Pablo Castro didn’t get afforded such niceties and issues prefer to have a priest current,” stated Skurka, now retired after later serving as Nueces County district lawyer.


Castro, who had 9 youngsters, had labored on the comfort retailer for greater than a decade when he was killed.

“He was man. He would assist folks out within the neighborhood. All people preferred him,” Skurka stated.

Two ladies who took half within the robberies and have been convicted on lesser costs stay in jail.

If Ramirez is executed, he can be the third inmate put to loss of life this yr in Texas and the sixth within the U.S.

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