Alabama Refuses to Allow Imam in Execution Room

5-4 Supreme Court decision allowed execution
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2019 12:14 AM CST

(Newser) – A Muslim inmate who filed a legal challenge because Alabama wouldn't let his Islamic spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber was put to death Thursday after the nation's highest court cleared the way. Dominique Ray, 42, was pronounced dead at 10:12pm of a lethal injection at the state prison in Atmore. Ray had argued Alabama's execution procedure favors Christian inmates because a Christian chaplain employed by the prison typically remains in the execution chamber during a lethal injection, but the state would not let his imam be there in the room, the AP reports. Attorneys for the state said only prison employees are allowed in the chamber for security reasons.

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Ray's imam, Yusef Maisonet, watched the execution from an adjoining witness room. There was no Christian chaplain in the chamber, a concession the state agreed to make. Strapped to a gurney in the death chamber, Ray was asked by the warden if he had any final words. The inmate said an Islamic statement of his faith in Arabic. The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday had stayed the execution over the religious arguments, but the US Supreme Court allowed it to proceed in a 5-4 decision Thursday evening. Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent that she considered the decision to let the execution go forward "profoundly wrong." Ray was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville. It was Alabama's first execution of the year. (Last week, Texas carried out the first US execution of 2019.)

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