Texas bars all clerics from execution chamber to bypass court ruling

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WASHINGTON, April 4, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Texas announced Wednesday it would no longer allow clerics into its execution chambers, to bypass a Supreme Court ruling that stayed a convict’s capital punishment because no Buddhist monk was available to accompany him in his last moments.

The court last week granted Patrick Murphy, 57, a last-minute reprieve in the name of religious equality because, under Texas policy, Christian and Muslim clerics could be present in the room while those of other faiths could not.

Murphy is one of the last members of the so called “Texas Seven,” a group of escaped prisoners who killed a police officer during a high-profile crime spree in 2000.

In response to the decision, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) said Wednesday it “has made a change to its execution protocol to only allow TDCJ security personnel in the execution chamber.

“TDCJ chaplains will continue to be available to an offender until they are transferred to the execution chamber. The offender’s approved spiritual advisor will continue to have the ability to visit the offender and be present in the witness room.

“This change is effective immediately.”

The court’s decision on Thursday after the same bench in February refused to grant a stay of execution for Alabama inmate Domineque Ray, who asked for an imam to accompany him to his death.

The refusal — on the basis that the request was made late, was strongly criticized, including by the court’s four liberal judges, one of whom wrote it was “profoundly wrong.”

Texas carried out 13 of the 25 executions in the United States in 2018.

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