Judge Delays Second Texas Execution Amid Religious Freedom Concerns

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Another Texas inmate, Ruben Gutierrez, who was set to be executed on Oct. 27 for fatally stabbing an 85-year-old Brownsville woman in 1998, has had his execution delayed over claims the state is violating his religious freedom by not letting his spiritual adviser lay hands on him at the time of his lethal injection, reports the Associated Press. A judge granted a request by the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office to vacate the execution date.

Prosecutors said the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming review of similar religious freedom issues made by another inmate, John Henry Ramirez, whose execution the high court delayed last week, will impact Gutierrez’s case. Gutierrez’s attorneys filed a complaint in federal court alleging the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was violating his right to practice his religion by denying his request to have his priest touch his shoulder, pray out loud and perform last rites when he was executed. His attorneys cited the Constitution’s First Amendment and a federal statute that protects an inmate’s religious rights. Ramirez made similar claims when he was granted a stay. The Supreme Court has dealt with the presence of spiritual advisers in the death chamber in recent years but has not made a definitive ruling on the issue. That could change after it hears oral arguments in Ramirez’s case.

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