Federal Court Stays Execution Because Murderer Couldn’t Have Imam in the Room

This is an interesting case which illustrates why people hate lawyers.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked the execution of a Muslim inmate in Alabama after the state refused to allow his imam to be at his death instead of a Christian prison chaplain.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit¬†granted an emergency stay¬†of execution for 42-year-old Domineque Ray one day before he was scheduled to be put to death for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville more than two decades ago in Selma, Alabama. The Alabama attorney general’s office has asked the United States Supreme Court to vacate the stay and let it proceed with the execution scheduled for Thursday evening, according to court documents.

“The central constitutional problem here is that the state has regularly placed a Christian cleric in the execution room to minister to the needs of Christian inmates, but has refused to provide the same benefit to a devout Muslim and all other non-Christians,” a panel of three district judges wrote in their decision Wednesday.


The Alabama Department of Corrections has agreed to exclude the prison chaplain from the death chamber, but a district judge on Friday denied Ray’s initial request for a stay of execution. The judge wrote that Ray waited “until the eleventh hour” to make his legal claim, it’s a matter of safety and security, and Ray’s imam, who is not a department of corrections employee, is “untrained, inexperienced and outside the state’s control.”

So the issue is that the prison has traditionally provided the condemned with spiritual comfort with a Christian chaplain in the death chamber. In this case, the condemned is Muslim, so he wanted an Imam. Fair enough. The prison said that the Imam can be in the visitors’ gallery, but not in the death chamber because he isn’t an employee and isn’t trained. That seemed like a reasonable accommodation, right? That wasn’t good enough for the Appeals Court, so justice will be delayed again.

What’s going to happen here? The prison only has two options. Either they can hire a spiritual leader from every faith or they just stop offering the condemned any religious comfort whatsoever in the room. Given the impracticability of the former, they will do the latter.

Meanwhile, the family of the poor little girl who was butchered by this beast will have to wait even longer for justice to be served because a bunch of lawyers are jerking around with something that could have been solved in a conversation.