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John Ramirez, 38, who was convicted of the 2004 murder of a Corpus Christi convenience store clerk, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday despite objections from the Newchest County District Attorney. Although Ramirez’s execution has been delayed three times, his lawyers say he has no further legal opportunity to stop the state’s recent attempt to execute him.
Ramirez’s priest will accompany him in the death chamber, fulfilling a request he made during his most recent scheduled execution a year ago. Texas initially denied his request to have a priest stroke and pray for him as he was executed, sparking a religious freedom case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court found that Texas violated Ramirez’s religious freedom by denying the presence of his pastor at the execution.
After the Supreme Court ruling, an employee of Newses County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez’s office applied for a new execution date despite prosecutors’ moral opposition to the death penalty. A district judge in Texas denied Gonzalez’s request to rescind the execution date, again condemning Ramirez to the death penalty.
This week, the last avenues to prevent or delay Ramirez’s death sentence have been exhausted, his attorney Seth Kreitzer said.
With Gonzalez’s backing, Ramirez’s legal team filed motions to stop the process with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Newchest County District Court. But as of Sunday, both attempts had failed.
On Monday, the Texas Pardon and Parole Board unanimously denied Ramirez’s request for clemency, effectively eliminating all possible options for delaying the execution.
Ramirez was sentenced to death in 2008 and for the 2004 murder and robbery of Corpus Christi convenience store clerk Pablo Castro. Court records show Ramirez stabbed Castro 29 times during a drug heist with two women. Castro had $1.25 on him.
Gonzalez’s office has requested a date for Ramirez’s execution three times since 2016, but he told the Texas Tribune he didn’t know a date could be avoided. When he learned that his office didn’t have to set an enforcement date, he chose not to.
Gonzalez said his moral objection to the death penalty stems from the way the death penalty is carried out in Texas: While 12 percent of the state’s residents are black, 45 percent of death row inmates are black.
“What we can continue to do is not continue to seek the death penalty. That’s what I promised to do, it’s the only thing I can do,” Gonzalez told the Tribune. Gonzalez was elected to the Newches County District Attorney for a second time in 2020 for a four-year term.
But in late April, one of his employees inadvertently asked for a new date out of habit, Gonzalez said. State District Judge Bobby Galvan received the plea and set October 5 as the date for Ramirez’s execution.
Two days later, when Gonzalez learned of the error, he tried to cancel the warrant, but Calvin declined the request.
In June, Calvin said Gonzalez was the “captain” and that what his crew did was up to him. “I really thought about it a lot,” Calvin said. “I respect your views on this, but I will not withdraw the warrant.”
Both the Texas Attorney General’s Office and Castro’s family have demanded that Calvin go ahead with the execution.
As a last-ditch effort, Gonzalez and Ramirez’s attorney, Krezer, tried last week to withdraw the warrant in Newchest County District Court. On Sunday, a local court rejected the motion.
A day later, seven members of the Texas Pardon and Parole Board voted against commuting Ramirez’s death sentence, exhausting his legal options to avoid the death penalty.
“While perhaps D.A. Gonzalez should have been quicker to inform his staff of his position that the death penalty is immoral, a new day is dawning in America where elected district attorneys can survive execution errors inferred from previous generations,” Kretzer said.
Krazer told the Tribune he did not expect any new appeals or other legal filings before Ramirez’s scheduled execution on Wednesday.