Attorneys for a Texas death row inmate have asked the US Supreme Court to stay his lethal injection until a Buddhist minister can be present with him in the execution chamber, the AP reports. Patrick Murphy's lawyers argue that executing the 57-year-old "Texas 7" member without his spiritual adviser present would violate his right to religious freedom. Murphy became a Buddhist almost a decade ago while incarcerated. A federal appeals court on Wednesday denied a request to stay his execution on the same grounds, upholding a lower court decision. Murphy is scheduled to be executed Thursday evening at the state penitentiary in Huntsville. He was convicted in the shooting death of a Dallas-area police officer during a Christmas Eve robbery in 2000.
His attorneys also say his pending execution is unconstitutional because he didn't actually shoot; they argue he was only the lookout during the robbery and was not a major participant in the crime. He was among the inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison in December 2000 and then committed numerous robberies, including the one in which they shot 29-year-old Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins 11 times, killing him. Hawkins, who had been on the Irving force about 14 months, had just finished Christmas Eve dinner with his family when he responded to the call about the robbery at a sporting goods store and was ambushed. The escaped inmates were arrested a month later in Colorado, ending a six-week manhunt. One of them killed himself as officers closed in, and the other six were convicted of killing Hawkins and sentenced to death. Murphy would be the fifth to be executed. The sixth inmate, Randy Halprin, has not been given an execution date. (The high court previously denied a similar request from a Muslim inmate.)