A Texas murderer had his execution halted by the Supreme Court at the 11th hour overnight after he argued his religious freedoms were being violated because his pastor wasn’t allowed to lay his hands on him as the lethal injection was administered.
John Henry Ramirez, 37, who was convicted of stabbing a convenience store worker to death, was set to be executed via lethal injection late Wednesday night at the Huntsville state prison.
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the execution at the last minute and ruled Ramirez could argue his case in October or November.
Ramirez was in a holding cell near the execution chamber when he was told of the court’s decision.
“He was quiet when I let him know,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark told the Associated Press.
“He shook his head and said: ‘Thank you very much. God bless you’.”
Ramirez was sentenced to death over the 2004 fatal stabbing of father-of-nine Pablo Castro, 46, at a Corpus Christi convenience store.
He was convicted of stabbing Castro 29 times in robbery cops said was the culmination of a three-day binge fueled by a mix of pot, pills, booze and cocaine — that yielded him just $1.25.
Prosecutors argued Ramirez and two other women were stealing money to buy more drugs.
Ramirez fled to Mexico immediately after but was arrested 3.5 years later.
In court documents arguing to stall the execution, Ramirez’s attorney Seth Kretzer said the inmate’s First Amendment right to practice his religion was violated after his request to have his pastor nearby was denied.
The attorney called the refusal of Ramirez’s request a spiritual “gag order.”
“It is hostile toward religion, denying religious exercise at the precise moment it is most needed: when someone is transitioning from this life to the next,” the attorney said in court documents.
Mark Skurka, who was the lead prosecutor during Ramirez’s trial, argued the victim didn’t have the luxury of having a spiritual advisor when he was killed.
“Pablo Castro didn’t get to have somebody praying over him as this guy stabbed him 29 times. Pablo Castro didn’t get afforded such niceties and things like to have a clergyman present,” Skurka said.
With Post wires