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Texas inmate executed after delay over religious rights

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Texas death row inmate John Henry Ramirez was executed Wednesday, following delays over his request for religious accommodations that were eventually granted by the Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of tdcj.texas.gov
Texas death row inmate John Henry Ramirez was executed Wednesday, following delays over his request for religious accommodations that were eventually granted by the Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of tdcj.texas.gov

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- A Texas death row inmate, who won a delay from the Supreme Court last year on religious grounds, was executed on Wednesday as his pastor prayed beside him as he died.

John Henry Ramirez, 38, was executed by lethal injection in the state prison system's Huntsville Unit, after a judge rejected a prosecutor's request to cancel the execution. He was pronounced dead at 6:41 p.m. CT.

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Ramirez was convicted of murdering Corpus Christi convenience store clerk Pablo Castro, a grandfather to 14, in 2004. Prosecutors said Ramirez robbed Castro of $1.25 and stabbed him 29 times. Before he was executed Wednesday evening, Ramirez said some final words to Castro's family.

"I just want to say to the family of Pablo Castro, I appreciate everything that y'all did to try and communicate with me through the Victim's Advocacy program. I tried to reply back, but there is nothing that I could have said or done that would have helped you," Ramirez said, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

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"I have regret and remorse. This is such a heinous act. I hope this finds you comfort. If this helps you then I am glad. I hope in some shape or form, this helps you find closure," Ramirez said.

"To my wife, my friends, my son grasshopper, Dana and homies, I love y'all. Just know that I fought a good fight, and I am ready to go. I am ready, warden," Ramirez said.

Castro's son, Aaron Castro, issued a statement after the execution that said, "God is the only judge, jury and verdict in the end for all of us. Who are we to hold hate, anger and vengeance in our mind?"

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Ramirez was originally scheduled to be executed on Sept. 8, 2021. The date was pushed back several times after Ramirez requested his spiritual adviser be with him during his final moments. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled 8-1 and granted the request in March after weighing the state's requirement for security in the chamber against the inmate's request for religious accommodation.

The Rev. Dana Moore of Corpus Christi's Second Baptist Church, who was with Ramirez when he died, told the Supreme Court he needed "to be in physical contact with John Ramirez during the most stressful and difficult time of his life in order to give him comfort."

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"Human touch has significance and power," Moore wrote in an affidavit requesting permission to "lay hands" on Ramirez at his execution.

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In April, Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez filed a motion opposing Ramirez's execution, saying "the death penalty is unethical." A Texas state district judge turned down the request by Gonzalez to cancel the execution date.

On Tuesday night, a group of local faith leaders demonstrated at the Texas State Capitol and delivered a petition with 15,000 signatures calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to call off Ramirez's execution after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles decided this week not to commute his death sentence.

The Evangelical group Vote Common Good hosted the rally with Death Penalty Action.

"We think the state should not be killing its own citizens or anyone," said Doug Pagitt, the executive director of Vote Common Good, according to KXAN-TV. "We don't think anyone is helped by killing people who kill people."

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