Ala. murderer sues state to allow imam during execution

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Domineque Ray wants an imam by his side when the state of Alabama puts the murderer to death.

But Alabama’s policy is to have a Christian chaplain in the room, who often kneels next to the death row prisoner and will pray with the inmate if asked.

Ray and his attorneys feel his religious rights have been violated and have taken their case to court, getting a stay of the execution that is scheduled for Thursday.

“If Mr. Ray were non-Catholic Christian, he would have a spiritual adviser of faith,” attorney Spencer Hahn said Wednesday. “… Because he happens to be Muslim, just as if you were Buddhist, he is being treated differently than everybody else, purely because of his religion.”

They have petitioned the court to have the chaplain excluded from the room and for the imam to be there to give spiritual guidance and comfort.

The state says it is a matter of security and all people in the room when executions take place are department of corrections employees. It says it is willing to hold the execution without a religious cleric in the room. It is asking the US Supreme Court to overturn the stay.

Ray’s attorney said the imam visits monthly with 10 death row inmates and has passed security checks.

Ray, who was born in 1976, was sentenced to death in 1999 for his part in the rape and murder of a teenage girl in Selma, Alabama. His co-defendant in the case, Marcus Owden, is serving life without parole.

Ray has always said he is innocent, his attorney said.

His lawyer believes he became a Muslim in prison. Court documents say Ray has been a Muslim since at least 2006.

Hahn plans to file a response to the state’s appeal to the Supreme Court by 11 a.m. CT on Thursday.

Ray also has a pending challenge over his conviction. The petition says Ray’s legal team at trial was not made aware that Owden was schizophrenic at the time. The document, filed by other attorneys for Ray, asks the Supreme Court to stay his execution.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the inmate’s first name.