March 29th, 2019
Murphy v. Collier
Opinion Date: March 28, 2019
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Plaintiff, a death row inmate, petitioned the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a writ of prohibition seeking to prohibit his execution until the state allowed his preferred spiritual advisor -- a Buddhist priest -- to be physically present in the execution chamber at the time of execution. After the petition was denied, plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint and a motion for stay of execution with the federal district court. The district court denied the motion for stay of execution as untimely and plaintiff appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that the district court rightfully recognized that the proper time for raising such claims has long since passed. In this case, plaintiff's execution date was set on November 29, 2018; by his counsel's admission, he waited until February 28 to first request that the state allow his preferred spiritual advisor to not just meet with him prior to entering the chamber and watch from the viewing room, but actually enter the execution chamber with him; then he waited until March 20 -- eight days before the scheduled execution -- to raise his First Amendment and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act claims; and these claims were not brought before the federal courts until March 26. The court also took note, as did the district court, of the multiple warnings plaintiff's counsel has received in the past for filing last-minute motions.
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