Today in the United States Supreme Court, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton defended the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s decision to disallow John Ramirez, who was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of Pablo Castro in 2005, from having a pastor speak out loud and touch Ramirez during his execution by lethal injection. Ramirez was scheduled to be executed on September 8, 2021, until the Supreme Court granted his last-minute request for a stay of execution and expedited review of his claim for religious accommodations in the execution chamber. Ramirez should not be given yet another reprieve, the Attorney General argued this morning in the Supreme Court.  

TDCJ cannot safely accommodate Ramirez’s demands for physical touch and vocalization while ensuring an orderly and dignified execution procedure, the Attorney General explained to the Court. In addition to the security risk of having an outside spiritual advisor touching Ramirez, physical contact and vocalization creates an unacceptable risk that medical personnel will be unable to monitor the execution to prevent unnecessary pain and suffering. In addition, Ramirez’s conduct shows his requests for religious accommodations are pretext meant to delay his execution, not motivated by sincere religious belief. A year ago, Ramirez filed another federal lawsuit stating his religious beliefs did not require his pastor to touch him during his execution. And the first time he asked that the pastor speak out loud during the lethal injection was less than a month before the execution. Ramirez also failed to follow prison protocol in requesting these accommodations from TDCJ.

“Ramirez’s failure to exhaust is inexcusable,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Ramirez provides no evidence that his requests for touch and vocalization are based on sincere religious belief and not his desire to put off his death sentence. Prisoners on death row should not be allowed to manipulate our justice system to delay execution for their heinous crimes.”