Texas DA Tried to Halt His Execution. It Went Forward Anyway

John Henry Ramirez dies by lethal injection
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2022 10:35 AM CDT
Updated Oct 6, 2022 12:00 AM CDT
Prosecutor Cancels Execution, Calling Death Penalty Unethical
John Henry Ramirez was convicted of murder in 2008.   (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP, File)

Update: A Texas man who won his legal battle to have his pastor with him as his execution was carried out was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday in Huntsville. John Henry Ramirez addressed the family of Pablo Castro, the Corpus Christi convenience store clerk he murdered in 2004, before the drugs were injected, the Texas Tribune reports. "I have regret and remorse, this is such a heinous act," he said. He added, of his execution, "I hope this finds you comfort. If this helps you then I am glad. I hope in some shape or form this helps you find closure." His pastor was indeed beside him as he died. The Nueces County district attorney’s office last year tried to halt the execution, but a state district judge denied that request and allowed the execution to proceed as planned. Our original story from April 17 follows:

Days after a Texas judge signed a death warrant for John Henry Ramirez, another motion was filed with the court—to drop it. Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez said a staff member sought the warrant without checking with him. Everything was in order, with the execution scheduled for Oct. 5, but Gonzalez explained that he acted out of his "firm belief that the death penalty is unethical and should not be imposed on Mr. Ramirez or any other person," the New York Times reports. He elaborated Thursday on Facebook Live.

"For a while now, I've said that I don't believe in the death penalty," Gonzalez said. "My office is not going to seek the death penalty anymore." Pursuing the execution of Ramirez while telling his staff not to seek the death penalty in other prosecutions would be hypocritical, he said. The condemned man's guilt isn't in doubt; Ramirez, 37, has admitted stabbing a convenience store employee 29 times in a 2004 robbery in what he himself has called a "heinous murder." The victim, Pablo Castro, had nine children, per the Texas Tribune. His son Fernando said Friday he's outraged by Gonzalez's action.

Ramirez's execution was halted hours before it was to take place in September, when the US Supreme Court intervened after he asked that his pastor be allowed to pray aloud with him and lay hands on him in the death chamber. The court decided in Ramirez's favor last month. The district attorney's decision surprised Ramirez's lawyer, who said that once the office sets its course in a case, it's not usually undone "helter-skelter." Gonzalez apologized to anyone upset by his reversal. "I have to deal with my own growth and my own rationale and thinking and logic," he said. "I did this because I thought this would be the right thing to do." The judge hasn't ruled on the withdrawal yet. (Read more death penalty stories.)

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