Friday, April 15, 2022

Texas prosecutor opposed to the death penalty rescinds execution date

A Texas prosecutor has called for the execution date to be revoked for a death row prisoner who successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to allow his religious adviser to put hands on him during his lethal injection, reported UPI.

John Ramirez, 37, was scheduled earlier this week to be executed Oct. 5 for the 2004 murder of Pablo Castro in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez asked for the execution date to be withdrawn in a court filing. He said his assistant district attorney requested the execution date without his knowledge.

In the motion, Gonzalez said he "has the firm belief that the death penalty is unethical and should not be imposed on Mr. Ramirez or any other person while" he is in office. He said the assistant district attorney was unaware of his opinion on the issue.

Seth Kretzer, Ramirez's attorney, said Gonzalez made the "correct legal judgment" not to proceed with his client's execution.

"This is welcome news on the eve of Good Friday, Easter and Passover informs my belief that the litigation of Mr. Ramirez's case this last year has touched some small part of America's soul," Kretzer said in a statement to UPI.

"I look forward to Judge [Bobby] Galvan's order withdrawing the death warrant, which was signed only two days ago. Otherwise, will immediately file a mandamus with the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin."

Gonzalez's request comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Ramirez's favor on a religious liberty issue. It said the state likely violated Ramirez's rights when it denied his request to have his pastor in the execution chamber, touching him and praying over him during his execution.

In 2019, the TDCJ banned chaplains from entering the state's execution chambers when the Supreme Court stayed an execution after Texas declined to allow an inmate to have a Buddhist spiritual adviser with him during the lethal injection.

The state lifted the ban in April 2021, revising its policy to allow death row prisoners to designate a corrections chaplain or other spiritual adviser of their choosing to be present inside the death chamber, but no touching or praying.

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