SAN ANTONIO – Relatives, clergy members and other supporters rallied Tuesday morning in Main Plaza to appeal for a stay of execution for a San Antonio man scheduled to die by lethal injection next week.
Chris Young, 34, was found guilty in 2006 of capital murder for fatally shooting convenience store owner Hasmukh Patel on Nov. 21, 2004, during a robbery.
Young was 21 at the time of the fatal shooting.
According to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Young is challenging his conviction and seeking a new trial based on a constitutional violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
During the jury selection process in his trial, a member of the jury panel was struck from service based solely on her affiliation with the Outreach Ministries Program at Calvary Baptist Church in San Antonio.
Some members of the program minister to prisoners, an activity prosecutors argued might indicate a potential juror favored the defendant, but the prospective juror made clear she didn't participate in ministering to prisoners, the coalition said. The woman's personal religious beliefs were not questioned.
The coalition is calling on the state of Texas to uphold its commitment to religious liberty by disavowing the discrimination that occurred in the case and giving Young a new trial untainted by bias against jurors of faith.
Stephanie Collier, a family friend who was among those in attendance at the rally, feels Young should get a second chance.
"For beginners, I would love for him to receive another chance, another trial, to be able to better tell his side of the story and show his side of the story. I believe a lot of that wasn't put forward. I would like for him to continue what he's doing, mentoring people, speaking to people, advocating on behalf of others, to use his life for good."
Young said in a prison interview that his death sentence saved his life by causing him to mature and be a positive force for his daughters and a mentor for troubled youth.
He said that before being sent to death row, he was a gang member who didn't have an appreciation for life.
Even Patel's son hopes Young's life will be spared.
"My dad always taught me to do the right thing, to do the positive thing. Clemency allows that positive aspect to come from all of this," Mitesh Patel said.
Supporters hope their message will reach Gov. Greg Abbott's office in an effort to get Young a new trial.