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Death Penalty Series: Supreme Court Halts Execution of Inmate Denied Buddhist Spiritual Adviser

April 1, 2019

The case comes after the Court allowed a Muslim inmate be executed without an imam.

Death Penalty Series: Supreme Court Halts Execution of Inmate Denied Buddhist Spiritual Adviser

California currently has a moratorium on the death penalty, pursuant to an order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom. The death penalty is still legal throughout much of the United States, however, and under federal law. A recent case demonstrates that there is still a fair amount of controversy surrounding the death penalty — and that the law is not settled regarding its application.

In late March, the United States Supreme Court blocked the execution of a Texas man because officials would not let his spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber. Texas officials generally provide chaplains for inmates of other faiths during executions. The inmate, Patrick Murphy, is part of the “Texas 7,” a group of inmates who broke out of a maximum security prison near San Antonio, Texas and robbed a sporting goods store in 2000. During the robbery, a responding police officer was shot and killed. Murphy, who was originally sentenced to 50 years for aggravated sexual assault, was captured and sentenced to death.

On death row, Murphy became an adherent of Pure Land Buddhism. He believes that he needs to focus on Buddha at the time of his death to be reborn in the Pure Land, which requires the presence of his spiritual adviser or another Buddhist priest at his execution. Texas officials denied his request. The Supreme Court blocked his execution in a 7-2 vote, finding that because Texas policy allows a Christian or Muslim inmate to have a state-employed Christian or Muslim religious adviser present, to deny inmates of other religions the same right would be religious discrimination.

According to a criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA, the Supreme Court failed to intervene last month when Alabama refused to allow a Muslim man have his imam by his side during his execution. In that case, Domineque Ray’s execution moved forward without his chosen clergy member.

These decisions demonstrate the complexity of the law surrounding the death penalty and religious discrimination, even at the Supreme Court level. Although California does not have the death penalty, questions surrounding religious discrimination may come into play in criminal cases. Having a skilled criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA who understands these complicated issues can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

At the Chambers Law Firm, we believe in zealously advocating for each of our clients. Our team of seasoned legal professionals includes attorney Dan E. Chambers, a former prosecutor. We put our knowledge of the law enforcement system to work for you, so that you can achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA.

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