Supreme Court Feuding Over Religious Reprieve of Texas Death Row Inmate

The U.S. Supreme Court Justices have found themselves add odds with one another after a recent decision was made to grant a temporary reprieve to a Texas inmate facing the death penalty due to his spiritual adviser not being present.

Request for a Buddhist Priest

In 2000, Patrick Murphy was part of a group of inmates who escaped from a Texas prison. He had committed a number of robberies in which a police officer was shot and killed. During his time on death row, Murphy became a practicing Buddhist. As such he requested that his spiritual adviser, a Buddhist priest, be present at his execution.

Texas officials maintained that the only religious personnel allowed in the death chamber were chaplains who were inspected and vetted thoroughly by the prison system. After Murphy’s lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, he was granted a temporary reprieve from execution by the justices.

Though Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the majority opinion that “…discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech – violates the Constitution,” the Justices failed to come to that same decision in a similar case, only weeks earlier.

Request for a Muslim Imam

Not long before this case, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a similar request by Dominique Ray, a Muslim from Alabama, who had requested that, his imam be allowed to attend the execution. Ray’s attorneys argued for a federal appeals court that his execution violated the Constitution in that it favored Christian inmates over Muslim inmates.

A Contradictory Precedent?

After the federal appeals court stopped his execution, the Supreme Court reversed that decision. A majority of the Justices argued that Ray had waited too long to flle an appeal; he did so fewer than two weeks before the date of his execution. Murphy’s attorneys filed his appeal only about a month before the date of his scheduled execution. However, Murphy’s appeal at the state level was also based upon Texas bills that would limit the death penalty for those who assisted but did not kill anyone at a crime scene.

Ray, who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, was executed on February 7.

Ceja Law Firm PLLC Will Fight for Those Accused of Capital Murder in TX

Despite the number of executions falling significantly on a national level, the number of inmates who have been put to death in Texas actually rose in 2018. That’s why it is so important for those who have been accused of capital murder to seek out a knowledgeable and experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer.

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we have years of experience in criminal law. Our Texas criminal defense attorneys understand the significance of such a charge. We will fight for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 713.568.5380 today!