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Alabama executes inmate who wanted imam present

 

A Muslim inmate who complained in a legal challenge that Alabama wouldn’t let his Islamic spiritual adviser be present in the execution chamber has been put to death after the nation’s highest court cleared the way.

Authorities say 42-year-old Dominique Ray was pronounced dead Thursday night of a lethal injection at the state prison in Atmore.

Ray’s attorneys had challenged Alabama’s execution procedure, saying it favours Christian inmates because a Christian chaplain employed by the prison typically is in the chamber during an execution. Ray requested an imam instead but that was denied. The state said it refuses to let a non-prison employee into the execution room, but agreed not to have the chaplain present.

The U.S. Supreme Court s cleared the way for Alabama to proceed with the execution of the Muslim inmate. Justices on Thursday evening vacated a lower court’s stay with a 5-4 decision.

Ray asked to have his imam replace a prison chaplain in the execution chamber. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the execution Wednesday to weigh whether Alabama procedures favored Christian inmates.

Prison system spokesman Bob Horton said 42-year-old inmate Dominique Ray was visited by his imam Wednesday and Thursday. Horton says that for his final request, Ray again asked to have that spiritual adviser beside him in the death chamber, a request the state has denied.

Ray was originally scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday. But that time passed without word from the U.S. Supreme Court on the state’s request to proceed with the planned lethal injection.

A lower federal court on Wednesday had stayed the execution to consider whether Alabama’s death procedures favor Christian inmates. The state allows a prison chaplain in the chamber. But it rejected a request for Ray’s imam to be present, saying it doesn’t allow non-prison employees in the death chamber only in an adjoining witness room.

The state of Alabama said a Muslim inmate has access to a Quran and allowed to take a prayer mat into a holding cell.

Ray was condemned for the 1995 murder of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville.

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