Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
Supreme Court grants stay of execution for inmate denied Buddhist spiritual adviser at execution
MarkThomas / Pixabay
Supreme Court grants stay of execution for inmate denied Buddhist spiritual adviser at execution

The US Supreme Court stayed the execution of Patrick Murphy, a Texas inmate who was denied a Buddhist spiritual adviser at his execution, late Thursday evening.

Previously, under Texas law only spiritual advisers for Christianity or Islam were allowed in the execution chamber. All others would be required to remain in the viewing area. Murphy requested that his Buddhist spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber and was denied by the state.

The case was originally presented to Justice Samuel Alito and referred by him to the full court. The opinion specifies that the stay will remain in place unless the state allows a Buddhist spiritual adviser in the execution chamber with Murphy. Barring the allowance of a Buddhist spiritual adviser, Murphy will be allowed to file a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a separate concurring opinion in which he argued that the state only has two options from this point: either the state can allow all spiritual advisers in the execution chamber or the state can require all spiritual advisers to remain in the viewing area. Kavanaugh acknowledged the needs of the state to control the execution chamber as executions do occasionally go wrong, but remains adamant that the state must treat all spiritual advisers the same. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted to deny the stay of execution.

A similar case involving a Muslim man who was denied his imam in the execution chamber was denied by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision earlier this year on technical grounds due to the lateness of the application. Justice Elena Kagan dissented in that case along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, but the court seems open to addressing the issue in this case assuming that Texas refuses to comply.