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Gorsuch, Kavanaugh rule on opposing sides again, view Texas cop killer’s execution case differently

(Image: White House)

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U.S. Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch found themselves on opposing sides again in a case involving the delayed the execution of a cop killer.

For the third time in the current high court session, President Trump’s judicial appointees reached decisions that did not concur, seeming to punch a hole in the left’s narrative that the president’s nominees would quickly swing the Supreme Court to the extreme right.

(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

In fact, Kavanaugh sided with the liberal justices on the court in blocking the execution of a death-row inmate who was not being allowed to have his Buddhist spiritual adviser present.

According to Fox News:

The nation’s highest court blocked the execution of Patrick Murphy about two hours after he could have been executed. Murphy is a member of the “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners who are awaiting the death penalty over the fatal shooting of a suburban Dallas police officer.

Murphy’s attorney argued that Texas prison officials were violating his client’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion by preventing the inmate’s spiritual adviser, a Buddhist priest, from witnessing the execution.

 

Gorsuch, Trump’s 2017 pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia who died in 2016, joined Justice Clarence Thomas in backing the decision of the lower court which rejected Murphy’s contention.

Arguing on the opposite side from the conservative justices, however, Kavanaugh – who was appointed by Trump in 2018 after a highly contentious nomination process – had a different view, marking the third time Trump’s conservative justices have found themselves on opposite sides of an issue.

“As this Court has repeatedly held, governmental discrimination against religion in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech violates the Constitution,” he wrote in a concurring opinion on Thursday.

“The government may not discriminate against religion generally or against particular religious denominations,” he added, noting that Christian and Muslim inmates are allowed to have their religious advisers present in the death chamber or in the viewing room according to the Texas prison system.

However, inmates with other religious backgrounds are allowed to have their spiritual adviser present in the viewing room only. Kavanaugh argued that until his Buddhist adviser was allowed to be present in the chamber during the execution, the state could not go forward with Murphy’s execution.

“What the State may not do, in my view, is allow Christian or Muslim inmates but not Buddhist inmates to have a religious adviser of their religion in the execution room,” he wrote.

(Photograph by Fred Schilling, Supreme Court Curator’s Office)

Texas officials argued in court that security concerns are behind the reason that only Christian and Muslim religious advisers are allowed in the execution chamber due to extreme vetting by the prison system.

Just 15 months from being released on mandatory parole, Murphy escaped from a South Texas prison in December 2000 along with other inmates, sparking a six-week manhunt while they committed multiple robberies.

In one incident, 29-year-old Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins was killed after being shot 11 times, Fox News reported. Six of the group of escaped convicts were caught and sentenced to death after being convicted of killing the officer. Another member of the gang killed himself as they were being captured.

Murphy was set to be the fifth member of the group to be executed as an execution date has not been set for the sixth inmate, Randy Halprin.

Frieda Powers

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