The Supreme Court allowed Alabama to execute a Muslim man without having his spiritual leader present.
Domineque Ray requested an imam be present during his execution to help him recite the prayers his faith requires before death. He was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville.
Ray claims he converted to Islam while in prison in 2006, but the correctional facility warden denied his request for an imam. State law allows for “spiritual advisors” to be present at executions but doesn’t specify if they are allowed in the execution chamber. Alabama Department of Corrections policy states only its employees are allowed in the execution chamber for security reasons and officials said there are currently no Muslim spiritual advisors on staff. Other states allow spiritual advisors to accompany inmates to the execution chamber but don’t let them inside.
Ray filed a lawsuit against Alabama’s Department of Corrections, saying the decision violated his religious freedoms. The lawsuit went all the way up to the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 to allow the execution to move forward. The final decision stated Ray waited too long to make his request, but he said he wasn’t notified of his right until January 23.
The four dissenting justices said the decision was “profoundly wrong.” Ray was executed by lethal injection on February 7. His imam Yusef Maisonet watched from the adjoining witness room.