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Death row inmate asks for a stay of execution so he can donate a kidney

HOUSTON — A Texas inmate who is scheduled to be executed in less than two weeks has asked to have his execution postponed so he can donate a kidney.

Ramiro Gonzales is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on July 13 for fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, a southwest Texas woman whose remains were found almost 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 pardon so the inmate could be considered a living donor “to someone who Urgently needed a kidney transplant.”

His attorneys have filed a separate application with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for a 180-day pardon related to the kidney donation.

In their inquiry to Abbott, Gonzales’ attorneys included a letter from Cantor Michael Zoosman, an ordained Maryland Jewish minister who corresponded with Gonzales.

“I have no doubt that Ramiro’s desire to be an altruistic 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 Ramiro wants to do to align his soul with his God,” Zoosman wrote.

Gonzales’ attorneys say he was deemed an “excellent candidate” for donation following an evaluation by the University of Texas Medical Department’s transplant team at Galveston. The evaluation revealed that Gonzales has a rare blood type, meaning his donation could benefit someone who may be struggling to find a match.

“Virtually all that remains is the operation to remove Ramiro’s kidney. UTMB has confirmed that the procedure could be completed within a month,” Posel and Schonemann wrote to Abbott.

Texas Department of Justice guidelines allow inmates to donate organs and tissues. Agency spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez said Gonzales was ruled ineligible after he submitted an application for donors earlier this year. She didn’t give a reason, but Gonzales’ lawyers said in their letter that the agency was objecting to the impending execution date.

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will vote on Gonzales’ application to that board on July 11.

Gonzales’ attorneys have filed a separate motion asking the board to commute his death sentence to a lesser sentence.

They also demanded that his execution not proceed unless his spiritual advisor is allowed to both hold his hand and place another hand on his heart during his execution. A two-day federal trial on that motion 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 donated a kidney to his mother in Delaware.

In 2013, Ohio’s execution of Ronald Phillips was postponed so that his application to donate a kidney to his mother could be reviewed. Phillips’ request was later denied and he was executed in 2017.

“Skeptics will think this is simply an attempt to delay the execution. But if that were the case, you would see a lot of inquiries,” said Dunham, whose group does not take a position on the death penalty but has criticized the way states handle executions. “The history of executions in the United States shows that people do not offer organ donation to delay an execution that is still taking place.”

In a report, the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that operates as the national transplant system under contract with the federal government, lists several ethical concerns about organ donation from convicted prisoners. These include whether such donations could be tied to prisoners receiving preferential treatment, or whether such bodies could be morally compromised because of their connection to the death penalty.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/death-row-texas-man-kidney-transplant-inmates/12011497/ Death row inmate asks for a stay of execution so he can donate a kidney

Dais Johnston

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