Local attorney says challenges will arise from inmate execution in light of religious concerns

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  Local attorney Mark McDaniel said he sees a legal battle on the horizon after Thursday's execution of Alabama inmate Domineque Ray.

Ray had been on death row since 1999 for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Selma girl.

He had also been convicted of a double murder prior to that.

Ray's lawyers requested a stay of execution for their client, citing various religious freedoms concerns.

The stay was lifted Thursday night and Ray was executed shortly after, the first inmate to be executed in the state in 2019.

Ray was Muslim and wanted his spiritual advisor in the room as he died, but only Alabama Department of Corrections employees are allowed in the chamber; the state department only employs a Christian Chaplain.

McDaniel said he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to deny Ray's request for his imam, rather than the chaplain, to be by his side as he died will cause some legal commotion.

"I think it'll be challenged, and I think it'll be challenged on equal protection rights - the 14th Amendment," he explained. "That this person, this defendant was treated unequally than Christian people that are executed."

McDaniel said he can't imagine what will happen if ADOC considers catering to any and all faiths.

"When you crack that door and start letting certain religions in there, then it's going to open up. It's wide open at that point," he continued. "You can't crack it and say you know, 'We're just going to let the Muslims come in and be with a person when they die.' You're opening it for everybody."

McDaniel recognizes the 'employee only' policy as a matter of safety during an execution.

"This person in the room, how many times have they been through executions, what are they going to do if something starts going wrong in the room there, I mean you just don't know," he added.

He believes a solution is a total revocation of chamber access to any unnecessary personnel.

"You're either going to have a situation when you have to remove the chaplain from the actual room and say, 'You can`t be in there. You're a DOC employee and you're a chaplain - you can`t be in there,'" McDaniel added.

Many states already don't allow access to anyone who isn't instrumental in performing the execution inside the chamber.

 

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