Texas executes inmate who fought prayer, touch rules

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas death row inmate who challenged state prison rules that prevented his pastor from touching him and praying aloud during his execution was put to death Wednesday.

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John Henry Ramirez, 38, was executed by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, according to The Associated Press. The execution proceeded despite the efforts of a district attorney in Nueces County.

Ramirez was convicted of the 2004 murder of Pablo Castro, 46, in Corpus Christi, KIII-TV reported.

The injection was administered at 6:27 p.m. CDT, and Ramirez was pronounced dead 14 minutes later, KRIS-TV reported.

Ramirez and two women confronted Castro outside a convenience store in search of money to buy drugs, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times. According to court records, Ramirez beat and kicked Castro and stabbed him 29 times with a 6-inch serrated knife. The group left with $1.25, the newspaper reported.

Ramirez was sentenced to death in 2008 after being a fugitive for more than three years, KIII reported.

Ramirez said his religious freedom was violated when his pastor was prevented by prison rules from touching him and praying aloud. The challenge led to his execution being delayed, the AP reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Ramirez, ruling by an 8-1 vote in March that states must accommodate the wishes of death row inmates who want to have their faith leaders pray and touch them during their executions.

“I’m praying for everybody in this whole process, for peace, for encouragement, and comfort for whatever that looks like,” Dana Moore, Ramirez’s pastor, told KRIS before the execution. “I think it’s important for people to know that John’s faith conversion is genuine, as much as I can tell for anyone.”

The execution came after Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez filed to call off the execution in April, the Caller Times reported. Gonzalez said he believed the death penalty should not be imposed on Ramirez or any other person while he remained in office.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously declined to commute Ramirez’s death sentence to a lesser penalty, the AP reported.

“I’m disappointed but I can’t say it was unexpected,” Ramirez’s attorney, Seth Kretzer, told the Caller Times on Monday.

“I’m not the person they try to portray me to be, you know what I mean?” Ramirez told KIII in a 2011 interview. “I’m just like anyone else. I just messed up. Messed up bad, you know what I mean? And I accept that know what I mean?”

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