Sun. Dec 15th, 2019

Execution Of Texas 7’ Gang Member Halted After Buddhist Priest Was Denied Access Into The Execution Chamber

The execution of a member of the ‘Texas 7′ gang of escaped prisoners over a policeman’s killing 18 years ago has been halted this evening after a Buddhist priest was not allowed into the execution chamber. 

 Patrick Murphy, 57, had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas on Thursday at 6pm.

He said his life should be spared because he didn’t fire the fatal shots.

The death row inmate, who became a Buddhist almost a decade ago while incarcerated, had also asked that his execution be stopped until prison officials allow his spiritual advisor to be with him when he is put to death.

And in a last minute ruling the Supreme Court stopped the execution Thursday evening based on the decision to not allow a Buddhist priest into the execution chamber.

They said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had violated his religious rights, The Texas Tribune reports.

Only prison employees are allowed in the execution chamber and only Christian and Muslim clerics are employed by the state.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the order will be reviewed by prison legal teams to ‘determine what, if any, future impact it might have.’

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote: ‘As this Court has repeatedly held, governmental discrimination against religion — in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech — violates the Constitution.’

His lawyers had alleged the officials’ actions violate Murphy’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion and the request had been turned down by a federal judge in Houston and by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Murphy’s lawyer, David Dow, said Thursday: ‘We are pleased the Supreme Court acknowledged…that Mr Murphy as a Buddhist is entitled to be accompanied in the execution chamber during the execution by a minister of his own faith.’

Murphy was among seven inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison and fatally shot 29-year-old Dallas police officer Aubrey Hawkins during a Christmas Eve robbery in 2000.

Murphy said he was only the getaway driver during the crime spree and was not the one who shot the officer 11 times.

He was still sentenced to die in 2003 after being convicted of capital murder of a police officer.

In his final interview before his scheduled execution, Murphy told CBS said he believed his death was ‘vengeance’.

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