Before taking his life, Alabama took Domineque Ray’s religious freedom


When Domineque Ray was executed by the state of Alabama last night his spiritual advisor was not in the death chamber with him. The reason? Ray was a Muslim, and citing security concerns, corrections officials would not allow Imam Yusef Maisonet in the room. Instead, he had to watch Ray die from the room next door, through a glass window.

Ray’s lawyer, Spencer Hahn, said in a statement that “I have seen it reported that Domineque was with his imam until he went to the execution chamber. That is not true. Mr. Ray lost access to his imam at 5:15 p.m., and was without his presence in the more than three hours that preceded his death.”

Alabama’s Criminal Procedure Code clearly states that “the spiritual advisor of the condemned” may be present at an execution, and Ray appealed the state’s decision to bar Maisonet from the execution chamber. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court issued a stay “Because Ray has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the Establishment Clause and because the other equitable factors tip in his favor.” But yesterday, just hours before the execution was scheduled, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reverse the stay because he “waited until Jan. 28, 2019, to seek relief.” Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor dissented, as did Justice Kagan, who found, “that decision profoundly wrong.” She said barring Maisonet from being by Ray’s side was a violation of the Establishment Clause’s “clearest command,” which is “that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.” Saying she had “no doubt” that prison security is of great concern to prison officials, Kagan asked, “Why couldn’t Ray’s imam receive whatever training in execution protocol the Christian chaplain received?”

Ray’s lawyer, Hahn, said, “Domineque was a devout Muslim and a human being. He was a son, a father, a brother. He wanted equal treatment in his last moments. I am beyond appalled at the willingness of Steve Marshall [Alabama attorney general] and the State of Alabama to treat a human being differently because he was part of a religious minority. We are better than this.”

Ray was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville of Selma. He was convicted based on the testimony of his alleged accomplice, who testified against him in exchange for not being charged with the death penalty.

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