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02nd Jul 2022

Texas inmate on death row asks to delay execution so he can donate a kidney

April Curtin

‘When you take something so precious from the world, how do you pay that back?’ he said

A Texas inmate who is due to be put to his death in less than a fortnight has requested that his execution is delayed so he can donate a kidney.

Ramiro Gonzales, 39, was put in prison for shooting and killing an 18-year-old Bridget Townsend from southwest Texas. Her remains were not found until nearly two years after she vanished in 2001.

Gonzales is due to receive a lethal injection on July 13. But on Wednesday, his lawyers asked Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to grant a 30-day reprieve so he can be considered a living donor “to someone who is in urgent need of a kidney transplant”, ABC News reports.

Speaking to journalist Keri Blakinger, a reporter for The Marshall Project, Gonzales said: “This is part of my atonement. When you take something so precious from the world, how do you pay that back? You don’t. You spend all these years trying to make restitution. He said, ‘How can I give back life? This is probably one of the closest things to doing that. I don’t want to say it’s saving someone’s life but it’s keeping someone from dying.”

Gonzales’ attorneys have also made a request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for a 180-day reprieve in relation to the kidney donation. They included a latter from Cantor Michael Zoosman, a prominent anti-death penalty advocate and former prison chaplain, who gave Gonzales the idea by telling him about a member of his synagogue in need of a kidney transplant.

In his letter, Zoosman said there has been “no doubt in [his] mind” that the inmate’s desire to be a kidney donor is not motivated 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 that Ramiro wants to do to help make his soul right with his God,” Zoosman said.

Gonzales’ attorneys said he’s been determined to be an “excellent candidate” for donation ever since he was evaluated by a University transplant team. It was then that Gonzales discovered he has a rare blood type, meaning his donation could benefit someone who might be struggling to find a match.

Gonzales lawyer’s wrote: “Virtually all that remains is the surgery to remove Ramiro’s kidney. UTMB has confirmed that the procedure could be completed within a month.”

Gonzales was actually deemed ineligible after making a request to be a donor earlier this year. Agency spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez did not give a reason, but Gonzales’ lawyers said in their letter that the agency objected because of the pending execution date.

Inmates are however, under the Texas Department of Criminal Justice policies, allowed to make organ and tissue donations.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is set to vote July 11 on Gonzales’ request. His attorneys have also made a separate request asking for his death sentence to be made a lesser penalty.

The lawyers have asked that that if it does go ahead, his execution does not proceed if his spiritual adviser isn’t allowed to both hold his hand and place another hand on his heart during his execution. A two-day federal trial on this request was set to begin Tuesday.

Requests to delay executions to donate organs are rare amongst death row inmates in the U.S, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

He said: “Skeptics will think this is simply an attempt to delay the execution. But if that were the case, I think you’d be seeing many requests. The history of executions in the United States shows that people don’t make offers of organ donations for the purpose of delaying an execution that will still take place.”

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