Alito slams Supreme Court order blocking execution of Buddhist inmate

A pair of Supreme Court justices on Monday issued new statements on a March ruling that blocked the execution of a Texas inmate who was not permitted to have a spiritual adviser present at this death.

The court had ruled in favor of the inmate, Patrick Henry Murphy, who was convicted for the murder of a police officer. Murphy, a Buddhist, had requested that his spiritual adviser be present in the room at the moment of his death, but previous Texas state policy blocked chaplains who are not employees of the state from being present during executions.

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Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Lindsey Graham's Faustian bargain Liberal, conservative Supreme Court justices unite in praising Stevens MORE had sided with the liberal justices in the order, stating that it was unconstitutional to allow spiritual advisers for some religions but not all.

But in a new opinion issued Monday, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that he believed the court’s ruling in the case was “seriously wrong.”

The justice criticized Murphy’s lawyers for not filing his request that the Supreme Court stay his execution on religious liberty ground until about six hours before the scheduled execution. And he claimed that by ruling in the inmate’s favor, “the Court invites abuse.”

“If the tactics of Murphy’s attorneys in this case are not inexcusably dilatory, it is hard to know what the concept means,” Alito wrote.

And he expressed concerns that by ruling in favor of Murphy, the court “will encourage this damaging practice” of filing last-minute appeals in death penalty cases.

Alito said that the claims surrounding religious freedom “are important and may ultimately be held to have merit."

"But they are not simple, and they require a careful consideration of the legitimate interests of both prisoners and prisons," he added.

“Prisoners should bring such claims well before their scheduled executions so that the courts can adjudicated them in the way that the claims require and deserve and so that states are afforded sufficient time to make any necessary modifications to their execution protocols.”

Kavanaugh, who had written a concurring opinion with the court’s order when it was issued, in a separate statement wrote that he “greatly respect[s]” Alito’s dissent, but maintained that the court should have stayed the execution.

He pointed to Texas responding to the order by changing its rules to no longer allow any spiritual advisers to be present at executions as showing that the court’s order was effective.

“Put simply, this court’s stay facilitated the prompt resolution of a significant religious equality problem with the State’s execution protocol and should alleviate any future litigation delays or disruptions that otherwise might have occurred as a result of the state’s prior discriminatory policy,” Kavanaugh wrote in the statement issued Monday.