Sister Prejean: Let Inmate Have Final Human Touch

John Henry Ramirez deserves to have pastor present at Texas execution, she writes
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2021 10:40 AM CST
Sister Prejean Makes a Plea for Death Row Inmate
This undated photo shows John Henry Ramirez, a Texas death row inmate.   (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP File)

Sister Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun made famous by the book and movie Dead Man Walking, is making a public appeal on behalf of a death row inmate in Texas. In a New York Times essay, Prejean argues that the state should grant the request of John Henry Ramirez that his pastor be allowed to attend his execution and lay hands on him as he dies. Prejean makes her case from a religious context—"for many Christians, the laying on of hands is at the heart of prayer rituals"—as well as a humanist one. "The extended isolation and distancing imposed by the COVID pandemic have reminded us of how desperately we crave the touch of our fellow humans," she writes.

Prejean recounts her personal experiences with death row inmates, remembering how she threw up outside the prison after the first inmate to whom she ministered was executed in 1984. "I can viscerally feel something of the agony and terror Mr. Ramirez may experience as he is strapped down and killed," she writes. "From the time of his trial, Mr. Ramirez has received countless signals that he is worth nothing more than disposable human waste." She makes a point to say Ramirez is not innocent, having murdered a convenience store clerk in 2004. But she argues that his life is worth more than that "singularly worst act." Read the full essay, in which Prejean offers condolences to the family of victim Pablo Castro. (The Supreme Court is considering Ramirez's request.)

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