By LESLIE ANNE DOMINIQUE
ATMORE, Ala. — Muslim inmate Dominique Ray was executed by lethal injection under the order of the U.S. Supreme Court after requesting to have an Islamic spiritual mentor in the execution chamber on his day of death.
According to sources, shortly before the case was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ray argued that his Atmore Prison did not accommodate Muslim inmates in that a prison-employed Christian chaplain stayed in the chamber to offer comfort during lethal injections. However, his prison along with the state refused to grant for an imam to be present. Due to “security reasons,” Ray’s imam, Yusef Maisonet, was only permitted to view the execution in the next room, separated by glass.
Ray gained the attention of the nation when he challenged this decision at the federal appeals court. On Wednesday the court granted him a stay of execution, while they decided if Ray’s case violated Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by “preferring one religion over another.”
However, less than 24 hours later in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court allowed for the commencement of the execution on Thursday. His imam was not in the room.
Ray was sentenced to death after he raped and murdered a 15- year old, Tiffany Harville whose body was discovered in a cotton field. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall called Ray’s execution a “long-delayed appointment with justice.”
Conservative justices claim that their abrupt decision was due to the “last-minute nature” of Ray’s appeal. Whereas, liberal justices find the ruling to be inevitably wrong.
Ray’s case brings to question if the Establishment Clause was actually violated. Many argue that Christian prisoners have been granted the right to have a religiously affiliated leader by their side during execution so, why is Ray’s case different?
As Alabama’s first execution of 2019, Dominique Ray’s case is still being reviewed. Although he was not granted his religious rights, the conversation about church and state will continue.