John Ramirez Wiki – John Ramirez Biography
John Henry Ramirez will be executed on Wednesday, September 8, 2021, for killing a convenience store worker more than 17 years ago in a robbery that raised only $ 1.25. But he has one last request. Ramírez is asking that his pastor be allowed to lay her hands on him while he dies by lethal injection. Although the prisoner’s last request to the state was rejected, Ramírez alleged that the decision violated his religious rights.
Ramírez’s request that his spiritual advisor touches him and vocalize prayers when he is executed has been rejected by Texas prison officials, who have argued that direct contact poses a security risk and that vocal prayer could be harmful. . In rejecting the 37-year-old prisoner’s request, US District Judge David Hittner ruled last week, “[The Texas Department of Criminal Justice] has a compelling interest in maintaining an orderly, safe, and effective process when it is conducted. an irrevocable process and a procedure charged with emotions “.
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‘It’s part of my faith’: Death row inmate calls for pastor to lay hands on him during execution
John Henry Ramirez doesn’t want to die alone. The Texas prisoner knows that at his execution, scheduled for Wednesday night, he will be able to see witnesses through a glass. A stoic prison official will likely be standing near his head. But as a devout Protestant Christian, he wants his pastor to lay a hand on him while he dies.
“It’s part of my faith, there’s a lot about the power of touch,” Ramirez told Project Marshall during an interview last week. “You bless someone at the time of their most spiritual need.”
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice told Ramirez that this was against the rules. Ramírez, who was convicted of stabbing a Corpus Christi convenience store worker named Pablo Castro to death during a robbery in 2004, sued and said he violated the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. The agency declined to comment, citing the litigation, but has previously said in news reports and court documents that Ramírez’s request could create a security risk.
The case is still pending in the judicial system.
Ramírez’s lawsuit is the latest twist in a broader debate about the religious rights of men and women facing execution. He also points out that most aspects of executions, from the last meals to the last words and the election of witnesses, are based on historical traditions and bureaucratic decisions, not legal rights.
“There are certain things that states are constitutionally required to do,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “You can’t execute someone in a cruel and unusual way. But everything else is up to [the states] to decide.”
Nine executions are scheduled for the rest of the year, each bringing its own legal and political debates about how they are carried out.
In 2010, an Oklahoma prisoner, Donald Wackerly, asked state officials to allow his Buddhist spiritual advisor to enter the execution chamber with him. Officials refused and Wackerly sued. The officials prevailed in court, but allowed the assessor to access Wackerly’s body after his death and to perform Buddhist funeral rites.
The legal battles moved to Texas, which executes far more people than any other state. For years, the state allowed spiritual advisers in the death chamber, as long as they were employees of the prison system. But all the spiritual advisers who worked for the agency were Christian or Muslim. Then, in 2019, Patrick Murphy argued that his Buddhist adviser should be able to enter the chamber, and the U.S. Supreme Court halted his execution at the last minute, ruling that Texas could let his adviser in or ban all advisers to maintain parity. . The state opted for the blanket ban, citing security concerns.
Earlier this year, Texas State Representative James White called on the legislature to force the prison system to allow spiritual advisers to enter the death chamber. White’s efforts failed, but in April 2021, after two years of citing security concerns and spending more than $ 200,000 on lawsuits, the state abruptly changed course and decided that spiritual advisers could enter after all. to the camera, even if they weren’t state employees. In February, Alabama also lifted the ban on spiritual advisers in the execution chamber.
The problem seemed to have been resolved, until last month, when Ramírez sued over the demand that his pastor could get her hands on him. “We believe this is his right,” said Ramirez’s attorney, Seth Kretzer. According to news reports and memoirs from a former state chaplain, this type of physical contact has taken place during past executions in Texas.
For Ramírez, these anecdotes are proof that the prison system is fighting his request not for security, but for spite. “The reason is that they don’t want to just give you what you ask for,” he said. “They want to make you fight in court.”
The vast majority of American executions over the past half-century have been carried out by lethal injection, but several states have ordered death row inmates to choose how they will die. The exact laws vary, but in a handful of states, including Florida, Tennessee and Utah, inmates have opted for electrocution or firing squad.
Although this “choice” appears to be a service to prisoners, it may hamper their ability to fight execution in court. The supreme court ruled in 1999 that by choosing a method of execution, Arizona prisoner Walter LaGrand had given up his ability to argue that the method violates the constitution.
“It’s really macabre,” said Kelley Henry, an attorney who has represented numerous men on Tennessee’s death row. She said she advises her clients not to choose, so they can continue to fight the methods in court. But she still explains the lurid details of what happens when either method goes wrong.
Some prisoners want to protect their loved ones in various ways. “Will your family see your body later?” Henry said. “The body of a person who has been electrocuted is horribly disfigured.” But other prisoners may believe that a more visually grotesque spectacle will persuade the public to oppose the death penalty.
In general, prisoners can choose witnesses for the execution and often choose their family, friends and lawyers. When states have tried to limit their options, the problem has ended in the courts.
Although not a constitutional right, the tradition of allowing convicted prisoners their last words is older than the US Constitution itself. In 1692, when George Burroughs climbed the ladder to face his execution for witchcraft, he moved the Salem crowd to tears with a perfect recitation of the Lord’s Prayer before his execution.
The Reverend Cotton Mather, who led the witch hunt, had to give some explanations afterward: supposedly, those wizards weren’t capable of uttering those divine words, and Burroughs presumably intended his final sentence to be proof of his innocence. . The overzealous minister explained it as a diabolical possession, but four centuries later, the authorities still struggle to regulate the last words and their consequences.
In some states, officials set time limits for recent speeches, while in others convicts can offer final statements only in writing. Typically, those regulations don’t end up in court, but in 1999 the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a lawsuit after prison officials barred convicts from saying their last words, telling them to write them down instead. , so that an official could read the statement aloud after the execution, and censor it as they see fit.
The case ended in an agreement that allowed those convicted to speak. But in 2010, a man recited prayers for 17 minutes on the stretcher, so the state created a new policy that allows officials to cut off any statement they deem too long or offensive.
Texas used to allow both written and oral statements. But in 2019, State Senator John Whitmire, who has long overseen the legislature’s criminal justice committee, decided that a prisoner’s written statement was too “frivolous.” He demanded that the prison system stop publishing the statements or that an official read them aloud to the press. The prisoner, John King, had opted for silence on the stretcher, but had written the following: “Capital punishment: those without capital are punished.”
For decades, Americans have also nurtured a macabre fascination with the concept of one last meal, dedicating entire books, movies, podcasts, art exhibits, and scholarly articles to the subject. The tradition is hundreds of years old, but it is only a tradition, not a right, and the rules surrounding it vary from state to state. In Oklahoma, there is a spending limit of $ 25, while in Florida the limit is $ 40 and food must be available locally.
However, despite the common assumption that convicted prisoners can choose their last meal, in Texas they cannot. That’s due to an incident a decade ago, when a man provoked the ire of the wrong state senator by ordering a massive meal and eating nothing. Before Lawrence Russell Brewer, a white supremacist who dragged a black man to death from the back of a truck in rural East Texas, was executed on September 21, 2011, he ordered steak, fried okra, a triple cheeseburger with bacon, three fajitas, a tortilla, pizza, half a loaf of bread, Blue Bell ice cream, peanut butter fudge, and three root beers.
When Brewer refused the food, it seemed like a final act of defiance, but former prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons told Project Marshall it was only because the inmate was nervous. She watched as Brewer said shakily to the warden, “I don’t think he can eat,” and the warden offered to bring some of the food anyway.
He didn’t touch it, and then Whitmire, the same Houston Democrat who had worked to end the written statements, was outraged.
“It is extremely inappropriate to grant a person sentenced to death such a privilege,” he wrote to the prison director at the time.
Since then, men and women waiting to be executed in Texas can only eat what is on the regular dining room menu for that day, or nothing at all.
This may seem like a last show of mercy that has faded. But for some men on death row, the idea of choosing a last meal had always struck them as obscene.
“I don’t eat with my enemies,” said Ron Hamilton, who has been on death row for nearly two decades. Instead, he would rather have something similar to what his fellow inmate John Ramírez asks for: human touch.
“To be able to hug your mom would be a beautiful thing,” said Hamilton.