'Texas Seven' Killer Avoids Execution--for Religious Reasons

'Texas Seven' prison escapee Patrick Murphy was not executed as planned last night, but the delay had nothing to do with his claims that he was unfairly sentenced for a murder he didnt' commit, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Murphy was set to die for the December 2000 murder of Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins, who was shot to death during a robbery by other 'Texas Seven' escapees, which he acted as a lookout, sitting, heavily armed, in the getaway car. Murphy argued that the sentence of death under what is called the Texas 'Law of Parties' was unfair, because he not only didn't shoot the officer, he didn't even know he had been shot.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh stopped the execution for a different reason entirely.

Kavanaugh claims to be a Buddhist, and the state was unable to find a Buddhist spiritual leader to be with him during his execution.

The Department of Criminal Justice says only state prison employees can be in the death chamber during an execution, and only Christian and Muslim spiritual advisers are on the state payroll...no Buddhists.

Kavanugh said that violates Murphy's right to the free exercise of his religion.

"Governmental discrimination against religion, in particular, religious speech, violates the Constitution," Kavanaugh wrote.

Kavanaugh said the state can either find spiritual advisers of all faiths to be ready to accompany inmates to their death, or it can stop the policy altogether, and allow no spiritual advisers of any faith in the death chamber. But just allowing people from two faiths to stand with a condemned man, Kavanaugh said, is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion.

Murphy was taken back to his cell on Death Row in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, and a court will set a new execution date.

Murphy was one of seven convicts who escaped from the Connally Prison Unit near Kenedy in 2000. Six were arrested hiding out in Colorado six weeks after the escape, the seventh shot himself to death as lawmen approached.

Four of the surviving six have already been executed.


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