The newest member of the United States Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has explained why he voted to stay an execution for a Buddhist death row inmate but did not do the same for a Muslim.
Tragically, Kavanaugh was forced to make the difficult choice to protect our justice system. It was a tough decision to make, but he did what he knew was right.
The Two Cases
The first case where Kavanaugh voted in favor of delaying the execution was for death row inmate Patrick Murphy, who was a member of the “Texas 7.” He is now Buddist.
Murphy was set to be executed in Texas, which has very strict laws as to who can and cannot be present in the room during an execution.
Per Texas law, only employees of the state are permitted in the death chamber. At the time, the prison only had Christian and Muslim chaplains in its employ.
Because of that law, Murphy’s spiritual advisor would not be allowed to be in the room during the execution. The Supreme Court voted to stay the execution in March.
The second case involved death row inmate Domineque Ray of Alabama, who received the death sentence for the brutal murder of a teenage girl in 1995.
Ray was Muslim and wanted his imam by his side during the execution.
Ray’s request was refused for much the same reason as Murphy’s in that the prison only did not have an imam in its employ, and therefore his request was denied.
Ray was executed in February by lethal injection, after the Supreme Court lifted an appeals court stay.
Kavanaugh defended his decision by stating that Ray, unlike Murphy, did not argue that he was being denied equal treatment based on religion.
Justice Kavanaugh stated, “Ray raised an Establishment Clause clam to have the State’s Christian chaplain removed from the execution room. The State of Alabama then agreed to remove the Christian chaplain, thereby mooting that claim.”
Reading Kavanaugh’s full opinion (which you can read here), it would seem as though Ray’s case, at least in the eyes of Kavanaugh, was more about having the Christian chaplain removed than having his own religious advisor present, hence the ruling.
This was no doubt a very difficult decision for Kavanaugh, but he has not shied away from going against the popular opinion to follow the law.