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Texas death row inmate follows Alabama prisoner in requesting spiritual adviser during execution


A Texas death row inmate won a reprieve from execution after claiming the state was violating his religious freedom by not letting his pastor lay hands on him at the time of his lethal injection. John Henry Ramirez was convicted of killing a convenience store worker during a 2004 robbery. He stole $1.25 during the crime. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Ramirez’s execution about three hours after he could have been executed.

Alabama says it will allow the pastor of death row inmate Willie Smith to hold his hand during a lethal injection this month. The decision ended litigation over the issue. Lawyers for Alabama wrote in a June court document that inmates can now have a personal spiritual adviser present with them in the execution chamber and the adviser will be allowed to touch them. Smith was convicted of the 1991 kidnapping and murder of a Birmingham woman. Court documents say Smith’s spiritual adviser can anoint the inmate’s head with oil, pray with the inmate, and hold his hand as the execution begins. However, the pastor has to step away before Smith’s consciousness is assessed.