NPR

Supreme Court Sees 2 Similar Death Penalty Questions Very Differently

An Alabama man was denied the right to have his Muslim spiritual adviser in the death chamber. But a Texas prisoner's execution was delayed because he was denied his Buddhist minister.
The Supreme Court ruled in what seem to be contradictory ways in two cases about access to spiritual advisers during executions. Source: Mandel Ngan

Two Supreme Court decisions just hours before a scheduled execution. Two decisions just seven weeks apart. Two decisions on the same issue. Except that in one, a Muslim was put to death without his imam allowed with him in the execution chamber, and in the other, a Buddhist's execution was temporarily halted because his Buddhist minister was denied the same right.

The two apparently conflicting decisions are so puzzling that even the lawyers are scratching their heads and offering explanations that they candidly admit are only speculative.

On Feb. 7, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, that Alabama could go ahead with its execution of Domineque Hakim Ray, a Muslim man convicted of murder. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had temporarily blocked the execution because the state barred the condemned man from having a Muslim imam at his side in the death chamber. Alabama said only the prison's Christian minister would be allowed in.

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