Texas executes John Ramirez for the 2004 murder of a Corpus Christi man

The Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville in 2020. (Mark Felix For The Texas Tribune, Mark Felix For The Texas Tribune)

A 38-year-old man who won his legal fight to have his pastor beside him during his execution was put to death Wednesday night in Huntsville for the 2004 murder of a Corpus Christi convenience store clerk.

Lethal drugs were injected into John Henry Ramirez at 6:27 p.m. inside the state’s Huntsville Unit, and he was declared dead 14 minutes later, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Ramirez had been sentenced to death for the murder of Pablo Castro, 46, who was fatally stabbed 29 times during a robbery while taking out the trash at the convenience store where he worked.

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Before the lethal injection began, Ramirez addressed Castro’s children, Chavon Hernandez, Pablo Castro Jr., Fernando Castro, Roberto Salcedo and Andrea Salcedo, his daugher-in-law, all of whom attended the execution as witnesses. Ramirez told them he regretted what he had done.

“I just want to say to the family of Pablo Castro, I appreciate everything that y’all did to try and communicate with me through the victim’s advocacy program,” Ramirez told them, according to TDCJ. “I tried to reply back, but there is nothing that I could have said or done that would have helped you. I have regret and remorse, this is such a heinous act.

Ramirez continued: “I hope this finds you comfort. If this helps you then I am glad. I hope in some shape or form this helps you find closure. To my wife, my friends, my son, grasshopper, Dana and homies, I love y’all. Just know that I fought a good fight, and I am ready to go. I am ready, warden.”

In a statement, Aaron Castro, the son of Pablo Castro, said mortals couldn’t judge his father’s killer.

“Peace and Love and justice for Pablo G. Castro may his name not be forgotten, and may God have mercy in J.H.R. for it is not up to us,” the statement reads. “He is receiving his true judgement with our Lord and Savior. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. A Life taken away is not to be celebrated but closure can definitely take place.”

Dana Moore, the lead pastor at Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, was alongside Ramirez in the death chamber, fulfilling a request Ramirez made during his scheduled execution one year ago.

Texas initially denied Ramirez’s request to have a pastor touch and pray over him as he was executed, spurring a religious liberties case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this year, the high court found Texas had violated Ramirez’s religious liberties by denying his pastor’s presence at his execution.

Ramirez’s execution proceeded despite the objection of the Nueces County district attorney’s office, which made efforts to halt the process.

Following the Supreme Court decision regarding Ramirez’s right to have a pastor in attendance, an employee in Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez’s office inadvertently filed for a new execution date, despite Gonzalez’s ethical opposition to the death penalty. A Texas state district judge denied Gonzalez’s request to cancel this week’s execution date request, resulting in the state ending Ramirez’s life.

This week, the final avenues to prevent or delay Ramirez’s death sentence were exhausted, said his attorney, Seth Kretzer.

Ramirez’s legal team, with the support of Gonzalez, filed motions to both the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the state district court in Nueces County to halt the process. But both attempts failed to stop it.

And on Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously denied Ramirez’s request for clemency.

Ramirez was convicted of capital murder in 2008 and sentenced to die for Castro’s murder.

Gonzalez’s office requested dates for Ramirez’s execution three times since 2016, but he told The Texas Tribune that he didn’t know it was possible to avoid setting a date. When he learned his office did not have to set an execution date, he opted not to do so.

Gonzalez said his ethical opposition to capital punishment stems from how the death penalty is imposed in Texas: Though 12% of the state’s residents are Black, 45% of death row inmates are Black.

“All we can continue to do is to not continue seeking the death penalty. That’s what I pledge to do, it’s the only thing in my power,” Gonzalez told the Tribune on Tuesday. Gonzalez was elected to a second four-year term as the Nueces County district attorney in 2020.

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