Death Row Inmate Suing to Have Pastor Lay Hands on Him as He Dies

Death Row Inmate Suing to Have Pastor Lay Hands on Him as He Dies death chamber in texas prison (PAUL BUCK/AFP via Getty Images)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Tuesday, 31 August 2021 02:44 PM

Texas death row inmate John Henry Ramirez, convicted for a 2004 stabbing death, is suing in an attempt to have a pastor make physical contact with him during his execution, according to multiple news outlets.

Ramirez is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Sept. 8, according to the Law&Crime website.

But Ramirez wants a court to allow his spiritual adviser to lay hands upon him at the time of his death.

His spiritual adviser is Dana Moore, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Corpus Christi. Moore meets regularly with Ramirez in prison. The two men speak through telephone handsets as they press their palms into opposite sides of a Plexiglas window in the prison, the website noted.

Between 1982 and March 2019, Texas chaplains were permitted inside the execution chamber. But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice halted the practice in April 2019.

Ramirez, in his lawsuit, argues that by not approving his request, the state infringes on his free exercise of religion at the moment "when most Christians believe they will either ascend to heaven or descend to hell — in other words, when religious instruction and practice is most needed," Law&Crime reported.

Ramirez’s attorney Seth Kretzer said Texas’ refusal to allow Moore into the chamber is "an unholy Trinity of constitutional violations." Kretzer anticipates the case could be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Eventually," Kretzer said, "the state of Texas will have to explain why the prison doctor must be able touch Ramirez’s arm — to determine when his pulse stops — but Pastor Moore will not be allowed to touch Ramirez’s other arm."

And, according to The New York Times, Ramirez said, in an interview, "It would just be comforting" to have Moore there.

He is asking Moore not just be permitted to observe the fatal drug cocktail as it goes through an IV line into his arm, but to pray out loud, and hold his hand or arm.

In an affidavit, Moore cited the miraculous healing Jesus is recorded to have performed through touching the sick.

"The power of human touch is more than just physical," he said in an interview. "It’s the way God created us."

Ramirez was sentenced for killing Pablo Castro of Corpus Christ in 2004. Ramirez was driving around looking for people to rob when he came upon Castro taking out the trash at a convenience store. Ramirez stabbed him 29 times in a robbery that netted $1.25, the Times said.