Texas executes inmate who fought prayer, touches rules

In March, the The United States Supreme Court sided with Ramirezsaying States must adapt the wishes of those on death row who want their religious leaders to pray and touch them during their executions.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Pardons unanimously refused to commute Ramirez’s death sentence to a lesser one. According to his lawyer, Ramirez had exhausted all possible remedies and no final request to stop the execution was filed with the United States Supreme Court.

The lead prosecutor in Ramirez’s 2008 trial, Mark Skurka, said it was unfair that Ramirez had someone praying for him as he died when Castro did not have the same opportunity.

“It’s been a long time coming, but Pablo Castro will likely finally get the justice his family has been asking for for so long, despite legal delays,” said Skurka, who later served as a Nueces County prosecutor before retiring.

Ramirez’s attorney, Seth Kretzer, said while he empathizes with Castro’s family, his client’s challenge was to protect religious freedoms for all. Ramirez wasn’t asking for something new but something that has been part of the case law throughout history, Kretzer said. He said even Nazi war criminals received ministers before their execution after World War II.

“It was not a reflection on a favor we were doing for the Nazis,” Kretzer said. “Ensuring religious administration at the time of death reflects the relative moral strength of the captors.”

Kretzer said Ramirez’s spiritual advisor, Dana Moore, was also allowed to hold a Bible in the death chamber, which was not previously allowed.

Ramirez’s case took another turn in April when current Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez asked a judge to withdraw the death warrant and delay the execution saying it was requested in error. Gonzalez said he considers the death penalty “unethical.”

During a nearly 20-minute Facebook Live video, Gonzalez said he believed the death penalty was one of “many things wrong with our justice system.” Gonzalez said he would not seek the death penalty as long as he remains in office.

He did not return a phone call or email seeking comment.

Also in April, four of Castro’s children filed a petition asking that Ramirez’s execution order be upheld.

“I want my father to finally have his justice and peace to finally move on with my life and let this nightmare end,” Fernando Castro, one of his sons, said in the motion.

In June, a judge denied Gonzalez’s request to remove Wednesday’s execution date. Last month, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to even consider the request.

Ramirez was the third inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 11th in the United States. Two more executions are scheduled for this year in Texas, both in November.


Lozano reported from Houston.


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

Juan A. Lozano and Michael Graczyk, Associated Press

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