A Muslim prisoner, Domineque Ray (42) was executed in the American state of Alabama yesterday, even though he felt that his religious rights had been violated and Wednesday’s execution was temporarily suspended.
The Muslim prisoner, Domineque Ray had asked for his imam’s presence in the death room, but he was refused. The Supreme Court ruled with five votes against four that the execution could go on anyway.
But Dominequ Ray who was converted and became Muslim while he was in prison, would normally be executed yesterday at 6 pm local time, but his lawyer announced at 10 pm that he had died. The Musilm prisoner was sentenced to death in 1999 for robbing, raping and killing 15-year-old Tiffany Hahn in Alabama in 1995.
The more liberal – read: left, in American terms – judges of the Supreme Court were against the execution of Ray without his imam beside him. Judge Elena Kagan found the decision of the majority “profoundly wrong”. She denounced the use that, a Catholic prisoner may receive assistance from a pastor of his own faith, while a detainee of another faith – whether that is Islam, Judaism or something else – Is not allowed to do so.
Kagan issued a dissenting opinion. “Under [the state’s] policy, a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites. But if an inmate practices a different religion— whether Islam, Judaism, or any other — he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side. That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality,” she wrote.
The opinion states on the Muslim prisoner, Ray, “Here, Ray has put forward a powerful claim that his religious rights will be violated at the moment the State puts him to death. The Eleventh Circuit wanted to hear that claim in full. Instead, this Court short-circuits that ordinary process — and itself rejects the claim with little briefing and no argument — just so the State can meet its preferred execution date.”
Just a chaplain not Imam
Ray’s imam was only allowed to visit the criminal just before the execution, but he was not allowed to join the execution room. Christian sentenced to death is allowed with the prison chaplain to accompany them, because he is “part of the execution team” and “familiar with the technicality of the execution protocol”.
Since 1997, the chaplain of the Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama attended every execution. He often kneels next to the detainee and prays together with him if he wishes. In the case of Domineque Ray, who was a Muslim prisoner, there was a consensus not to involve the almoner this time in the execution, but to replace him with an imam was not possible because of security considerations.
Ray have converted to Islam in the cell. According to court documents, he has certainly been Muslim since 2006.
It was Alabama’s first execution of the year.
Ray was convicted in 1999 after another man, Marcus Owden, confessed to his role in the crime and implicated Ray. Owden told police that they had picked the girl up for a night out on the town and then raped her. Owden said that Ray cut the girl’s throat. Owden pleaded guilty to murder, testified against Ray and is serving a life sentence without parole.
A jury recommended the death penalty for Ray by an 11-1 vote. No representatives of Harville’s family attended the execution, according to AL.com.
Ray’s attorneys had also asked in legal filings to stay the execution on other grounds. Lawyers said it was not disclosed to the defense team that records from a state psychiatric facility suggested Owden suffered from schizophrenia and delusions. The Supreme Court also rejected the request.
Spencer Hahn, one of Ray’s attorneys, said he was appalled that Ray received unequal treatment at his death because he was a member of a religious minority.