Death-row inmate John Henry Ramirez's pastor will be allowed to touch him and pray out loud during Ramirez's execution, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
His attorney, Seth Kretzer, says the court ruled in Ramirez's favor 8-1.
“I don’t know how it could be any more clear to the State of Texas that they need to stop trying to deny inmates their right to have their spiritual advisers with them at the point and time that they are executed,” Kretzer said.
Texas’ currently allows spiritual advisers to be in the chamber as inmates are executed, but does not allow contact, neither verbal or physical.
Ramirez's spiritual adviser, Corpus Christi Second Baptist Church Pastor Dana Moore, hopes Thursday's Supreme Court ruling will allow him to have that contact, just like he has had with other members of his congregation on their deathbeds.
“Any time I go visit the hospital and somebody in their death experience, I’ll hold hands and hold hands with the family," Moore said. "You know, just as Christians — it’s not just our church but as Christians — we frequently hold hands, touch somebody — a shoulder something like that. Because there’s just a dynamic and a power of encouragement — of compassion and love in that touch."
Ramirez is on death row after being convicted of the murder of local convenience-store employee Pablo Castro in 2004.
Castro's family turned down requests for formal interviews, but one family member did say she was disappointed that Ramirez will have so many accommodations at his time of death when their loved one did not.
Right now, there's no date set for Ramirez's execution.
Kretzer says it'll be at least 90 days before that happens, but more likely six months to a year or more.
At that point, he's hopeful the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will have rules in place that clearly allow a pastor to hold hands with the condemned and pray with them.
“They need to get a very specific detailed protocols that everyone can read — everyone can know what they are," Kretzer said.
The T.D.C.J. would only release a statement Thursday.
It read, "We respect the court’s decision and will be making appropriate modifications to our practices to align with today’s ruling."