Judge: Execution can’t proceed without religious requests

Jul 6, 2022, 1:46 PM | Updated: 1:59 pm

This image provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Texas death row inmate Ramiro Gonzales, who is set to be put to death in less than two week. Gonzales has asked that his execution be temporarily delayed so he can donate a kidney. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

(Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge has issued a temporary order telling Texas prison officials that they can carry out next week’s scheduled execution of a death row inmate only if they grant all of his religious accommodations, including allowing his spiritual adviser to hold his hand when he receives a lethal injection.

Ramiro Gonzales is scheduled to be executed July 13 for fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, a southwest Texas woman whose remains were found nearly two years after she vanished in 2001.

Gonzales, 39, has asked that when he is executed, his spiritual adviser be allowed in the death chamber so she can pray aloud, hold his hand and place her other hand on his chest.

“Receiving God’s touch is a sacred concept in the Bible and even the lepers were touched by God. The specific physical contact I have requested is vitally important to me as I am making my spiritual transition into the paradise of God,” Gonzales said in court documents filed last month.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials granted all of Gonzales’ requests except for allowing his spiritual adviser to hold his hand. The officials have argued allowing the hand holding could be a security risk as the adviser would be too close to the IV lines that deliver the lethal injection and the adviser would be in a location that would block the view of authorities and witnesses.

The preliminary injunction issued on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Charles Eskridge in Houston that orders Texas prison officials to grant all of Gonzales’ religious accommodations follows a civil complaint the death row inmate had filed accusing the Texas prison system of violating his religious freedom.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez said Wednesday her agency “is still evaluating the court’s decision.”

A spokesman for the Texas Attorney General’s Office did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

In court documents, the Texas Attorney General’s Office argued the prison system has not placed a “substantial burden on Gonzales’s religious exercise.”

“Not only will his spiritual advisor be physically present in the chamber thereby fulfilling Gonzales’s assertion of spiritual significance, she will also be intimately close in proximity to Gonzales and maintain physical contact on his chest over his heart,” the attorney general’s office wrote in court documents filed last month.

Various executions in Texas were delayed last year amid legal questions over Texas’ refusal to allow spiritual advisers to touch inmates and pray aloud as condemned individuals are put to death. In April 2021, the Texas prison system reversed a two-year ban on spiritual advisers in the death chamber but limited what they can do.

In March, the Supreme Court ruled states must accommodate the requests of death row inmates who want to have their spiritual advisers pray aloud and touch them during their executions.

In the high court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts urged states to adopt clear rules in advance in order to avoid last-minute appeals to federal courts.

But the Texas prison system declined to formally update its rules, opting instead to review such requests on a case-by-case basis. Some defense attorneys worried that not outlining specific rules would result in more court challenges, like the one filed by Gonzales.

Gonzales’ was condemned for the killing of Townsend, who was the girlfriend of his drug dealer. Gonzales kidnapped Townsend from her Bandera County home in January 2001 after stealing drugs and money.

In a confession to police, Gonzales said he took her to his family’s ranch in neighboring Medina County, where he sexually assaulted her before fatally shooting her.

Townsend wasn’t found until October 2002, when Gonzales led authorities to her remains after receiving two life sentences for kidnapping and raping another woman.

Gonzales’ attorneys on Tuesday also asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay his execution. Last week, they made a separate request to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to grant a 30-day reprieve so Gonzales can make a kidney donation.

___

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson talks to reporters outside the federal courthouse ...
Associated Press

Judge: New Orleans police reforms at risk as manpower falls

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dwindling manpower and insufficient resources amid a nationwide increase in violent crime are endangering hard-fought, court-ordered reforms imposed on the New Orleans Police Department amid scandals that followed Hurricane Katrina, a federal judge said Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan’s comments raised serious doubts that the city would soon be granted […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Oregon top judge denies conflict led to firing of commission

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s chief justice denied Wednesday that a personality conflict led her to fire all members of a commission that governs the Office of Public Defense Services and appoints its executive director. Critics for years have said Oregon’s public defense system is in crisis with far too few attorneys to represent people […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

2 ex-fraternity members get 6 weeks jail for hazing death

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) — Two former fraternity members were sentenced to six weeks in jail on Wednesday after being convicted of hazing-related misdemeanor counts in the death of a Bowling Green State University student last year. The two men were both acquitted in May of more serious charges — including involuntary manslaughter and reckless […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Brad Pitt foundation reaches settlement over Louisiana homes

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation and homeowners of the houses built by the program, in an area of New Orleans among the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, have reached a $20.5 million settlement. The Times-Picayune ‘ The New Orleans Advocate reported Wednesday that, pending approval by a judge, each of […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Alex Jones talks to media during a midday break in his trial at the Travis County Courthouse...
Associated Press

Alex Jones’ lawyer faces disciplinary hearing in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A lawyer for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is facing scrutiny from a Connecticut judge, who began hearing testimony Wednesday on whether the lawyer should be disciplined for giving other attorneys for Jones highly sensitive documents, including medical records of relatives of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Attorney Norman […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

5 Great Danes attack, kill owner in northwest Iowa

ROSSIE, Iowa (AP) — A northwest Iowa woman who was found in a ditch died after being attacked by her five Great Danes, authorities said Wednesday. A man found the woman in a rural area of Clay County on Monday but couldn’t get close to her because of several large dogs, according to KTIV-TV. The […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Judge: Execution can’t proceed without religious requests