A Texas inmate who is due to be put to death in less than two weeks has asked that his execution be delayed so he can donate a kidney.
Ramiro Gonzales is due to receive a lethal injection on July 13 for fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, a Southwest Texas woman whose remains were found nearly two years after she disappeared in 2001.
In a letter sent Wednesday, Gonzales’ attorneys Thea Posel and Raoul Schonemann asked Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to grant a 30-day reprieve so the inmate could be considered a living donor “to someone who has an urgent need for a kidney transplant”. .”
His attorneys filed a separate application with the Texas Board of Pardons and Pardons for a 180-day reprieve related to kidney donation.
In their request to Abbott, Gonzales’ lawyers included a letter from Cantor Michael Zoosman, an ordained Jewish minister from Maryland who corresponded with Gonzales.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Ramiro’s desire to be a selfless kidney donor is not driven by a last-minute attempt to stop or delay his execution. I will go to my grave believing in my heart that this is something Ramiro wants to do to help set his soul right with his God,” Zoosman wrote.
Lawyers for Gonzales say he was determined to be an “excellent candidate” for donation after being evaluated by the University of Texas Medical Branch Transplant Team at Galveston. The assessment revealed that Gonzales had a rare blood type, meaning his gift could benefit someone who might have difficulty finding a match.
“Virtually all that remains is surgery to remove Ramiro’s kidney. The UTMB has confirmed that the procedure could be completed within a month,” Posel and Schonemann wrote to Abbott.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice policies allow inmates to donate organs and tissues. Agency spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez said Gonzales was deemed ineligible after applying to be a donor earlier this year. She didn’t give a reason, but Gonzales’ lawyers said in their letter that the agency objected because of the pending execution date.
Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is scheduled to vote July 11 on Gonzales’ application to that agency.
Gonzales’ lawyers made a separate request asking the board to commute his death sentence to a lesser one.
They also asked that his execution not proceed unless his spiritual advisor is allowed to both hold his hand and place another hand over his heart during his execution. A two-day federal trial on that claim was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Houston.
Gonzales’ request to delay his execution for organ donation is rare among death row inmates in the United States, Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Friday.
In 1995, convicted murderer Steven Shelton in Delaware donated a kidney to his mother.
In 2013, Ronald Phillips’ execution in Ohio was delayed so that his request to donate a kidney to his mother could be considered. Phillips’ request was later denied and he was executed in 2017.
“Skeptics will think it’s just an attempt to delay execution. But if that were the case, I think you’d see a lot of requests,” said Dunham, whose band takes no position on capital punishment but criticized the way states carry out executions. “The history of executions in the United States shows that people do not offer organ donations in order to delay an execution that will when same place.”
In a report, the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit organization that serves as the national transplant system under contract to the federal government, listed various ethical concerns regarding organ donations from convicted prisoners. These include whether these donations could be linked to prisoners receiving preferential treatment or whether these organs could be morally compromised due to their links to the death penalty.
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