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High Court Lets Alabama Execute Muslim Without Imam in Chamber

Feb. 8, 2019, 2:57 AM

A divided U.S. Supreme Court reinstated Alabama’s planned execution Thursday of a Muslim man who sought to have his imam in the death chamber with him.

The high court lifted a day-old federal appeals court order that had blocked the execution. The lower court said Alabama appeared to be violating Domineque Ray’s religious rights.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan voted to halt the execution while the legal fight went forward.

The only cleric Alabama allows in the chamber is the prison’s Christian chaplain, a government employee trained as a member of the execution team. Alabama says Ray’s imam can witness the execution but must do so from an adjacent room for safety and security reasons.

Ray was convicted of raping, robbing and murdering 15-year-old Tiffany Harville in 1995 in a cotton field outside Selma. Prosecutors said he had previously murdered two teenage brothers.

In blocking the execution Wednesday, the appeals court said that Ray had been a committed Muslim since at least 2006 and that his sincerity wasn’t in question.

The case is Dunn v. Ray, 18A815.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at Laurie Asséo, Ros Krasny