Muslim inmate executed in Alabama after legal battle over imam's presence

Supreme Court lifted stay of execution Thursday

By DARRAN SIMON, CNN
Alabama Department of Corrections via CNN

Domineque Ray

(CNN) - A Muslim inmate who argued his religious rights were violated because Alabama would not allow his imam by his side at his execution was put to death Thursday night.

Domineque Ray, 42, was sentenced to death in 1999 for his part in the 1995 rape and murder of a teenage girl, Tiffany Harville, in Selma, Alabama. His co-defendant in the case, Marcus Owden, is serving life without parole.

"Due to the nature of his crime, the decision of a jury to condemn him to death and because our legal system has worked as designed, Mr. Ray's sentence was carried out," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.

"Courts at every level have upheld Mr. Ray's conviction for his senseless act. Accordingly, the laws of this state have been carried out. It is my prayer that, with tonight's events, Miss Harville's family can finally have closure."

The Supreme Court voted Thursday to lift a stay for the death row inmate. He had argued his religious rights were violated because he couldn't have his imam by his side at his execution.

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 petitioned the court late last month to have the chaplain excluded from the room and for the imam to be there to give spiritual guidance and comfort. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday granted a stay of the execution, which was scheduled for Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility.

The state argued that as a matter of security, all the people in the room when executions take place are department of corrections employees. The state said it was willing to hold the execution without a religious cleric in the room. It had asked the US Supreme Court to overturn the stay.

Ray's attorney Spencer Hahn said the imam visits monthly with 10 death row inmates and has passed security checks. Ray became a Muslim in prison, his lawyer believes. Court documents say Ray has been a Muslim since at least 2006.

"Domineque was a devout Muslim and a human being. He was a son, a father, a brother. He wanted equal treatment in his last moments. I am beyond appalled at the willingness of Steve Marshall and the State of Alabama to treat a human being differently because he was part of a religious minority. We are better than this," Hahn said.

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