Justice Brett Kavanaugh Helps Block Texas Death Row Inmate’s Execution

Colin Fredericson
By Colin Fredericson
March 29, 2019US News
Justice Brett Kavanaugh Helps Block Texas Death Row Inmate’s Execution
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Sept. 27, 2018. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh helped keep a man from being executed in Texas because his Buddhist spiritual advisor wasn’t in the execution chamber.

A man that was set to be executed was saved by a Supreme Court decision that made its way to the Texas prison system two hours after he was set to be executed.

Patrick Murphy’s wish to take his Buddhist spiritual advisor into the execution chamber with him was rejected by Texas prison officials, since the state only provided Christian or Muslim chaplains. Murphy’s lawyer argued that this violated his client’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

Murphy became a Buddhist almost 10 years back, while incarcerated. The state only provides for Christian or Muslim chaplains to accompany prisoners during execution.

“As this Court has repeatedly held, governmental discrimination against religion, in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech violates the Constitution,” Kavanaugh wrote. “The government may not discriminate against religion generally or against particular religious denominations.”

Kavanaugh said that only if the state provides a Buddhist chaplain, or permits Murphy’s own to enter the chamber, can the execution go forward.

“What the State may not do, in my view, is allow Christian or Muslim inmates but not Buddhist inmates to have a religious adviser of their religion in the execution room,” the justice said.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel said the state would review the ruling.

In the meantime, Murphy will leave the prison unit location that carries out executions and return to the unit that imprisons death row inmates, about 45 miles away.

“I knew there was a thin thread of possibility,” Murphy said in a cell just feet from the execution chamber, upon hearing news of the reprieve.

Murphy was among those known as the “Texas 7,” a group of inmates that escaped from prison in Texas in 2000. Murphy was soon to be released on parole before he joined the group.

While on the run the group was on a crime spree. The convicts ambushed and murdered a police officer during a robbery, among many robberies the group committed.

The seven convicts were found in Colorado, a month after the murder. One inmate killed himself as officers closed in, and the other six were sentenced to death. All but two, including Murphy, have been executed.

Murphy’s lawyers argued that he did not directly participate in the robbery or the murder.

Lawyer: It would be a violation of his rights to not delay it

NTD Television 发布于 2019年3月28日周四

The lead prosecutor on Murphy’s case and of those in the Texas 7 said that Murphy alerted the group to the officer’s presence and movements, therefore allowing the ambush to go forward.

Last month the Supreme Court overturned a stay request of a prisoner set to be executed in the state of Alabama. The prisoner asked if he could have a Muslim imam in the execution room with him. The Supreme Court felt that he made the request much too close to the scheduled execution date and was “an abuse of discretion and permits,” according to Justice Elena Kagan (pdf). Kavanaugh noted that Murphy made his request a month ago, according to a court document (pdf).

“In this case, the relevant Texas policy allows a Christian or Muslim inmate to have a state-employed Christian or Muslim religious adviser present either in the execution room or in the adjacent viewing room. But inmates of other religious denominations—for example, Buddhist inmates such as Murphy—who want their religious adviser to be present can have the religious adviser present only in the viewing room and not in the execution room itself for their executions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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