Muslim Inmate's Execution Is Blocked Over Denial of Request for Imam
Finally mustered the mental energy to share my thoughts about the execution of Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray, a Muslim man denied by the State of Alabama and the United States Supreme court of direct access to his Imam for his last breaths:
This case and story of Mr. Ray's last days left me a combination of indignant and heartbroken.
In the rush to execute someone in what is an already inequitable, dehumanizing, inhumane capital punishment scheme, we further robbed Mr. Ray of his humanity by not permitting him the comfort and guidance of his Imam in his last moments on Earth. Instead of crafting alternatives (such as training the Imam on the appropriate protocol to be in the death chamber) to reasonably remedy the situation and provide Mr. Ray his humble request, the state of Alabama spent its time and resources to actively litigate against Mr. Ray's basic demand, choosing a desire to expeditiously kill over simple, human decency. The United States Supreme Court sanctioned this callousness by lifting the stay of Mr. Ray's execution and had the audacity to note that Mr. Ray's claim came too late. It's never too late to afford a dying man kindness, consideration and basic dignity. The lack of basic human compassion by the state of Alabama, the Supreme Court and, in turn, by all of us, is sickening.
From a legal perspective, this seem to be a quintessential example of religious discrimination that was not constitutionally justified by any compelling state interest. If Mr. Ray had been Christian, he would and could have had access to the spiritual affirmations and guidance he so desired, but because he was Muslim, he didn't. As Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent,
“the State has offered no evidence to show that its wholesale prohibition on outside spiritual advisers is necessary to achieve that goal (of prison security). Why couldn't Ray's imam receive whatever training in execution protocol the Christian chaplain received? The State has no answer. Why wouldn't it be sufficient for the imam to pledge, under penalty of contempt, that he will not interfere with the State's ability to perform the execution? The State doesn't say.”
At the end of the day, we got it wrong at every level. We got it wrong when we condemned this man, Mr. Ray, to death and executed him, despite the horrid nature of his crimes. We got it wrong by denying him the basic dignity of having his Imam aside for his last breaths. We got it wrong by violating the sacred demands of the United States Constitution. We got it wrong by choosing haste over humanity.