execution Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas Department of Criminal Justice once again denies free exercise of religion; complaint filed by John Ramirez

Although COVID cases are once again surging across the country, the State of Texas appears determined to move forward with seven executions over the next three months. On September 8, 2021, the State is scheduled to execute John Ramirez. It is the third execution date he has faced in recent years. A September 2020 date was withdrawn based on the pandemic. Ramirez also faced execution in February 2017 but was granted a stay by a federal district court based on his claims of ineffective legal representation. Ramirez was convicted in 2009 of killing and robbing Pablo Castro in Corpus Christi in 2004. 

Ramirez has requested that his spiritual advisor, Pastor Dana Moore of Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, accompany him in the execution chamber. In April 2021, two years after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) removed all chaplains from the execution chamber – a knee-jerk decision that was roundly criticized for denying individuals spiritual comfort in their last moments – the Correctional Institutions Division of TDCJ published a revised Execution Procedure that allows for a TDCJ chaplain or a spiritual advisor of the individual’s choosing to be present in the chamber during the execution. It stipulates criteria that a spiritual advisor must meet and the process he/she must follow. 

Ramirez also asked that Pastor Moore be allowed to lay hands upon him and pray aloud at his moment of death in accordance with his religious practice. After these requests were denied, Ramirez filed a federal complaint alleging the violation of the free exercise of his religious beliefs.  The complaint remains pending. 

Read coverage from the Baptist Press.