A death row inmate who has claimed the prison service is violating his human rights by not allowing a pastor to 'lay hands' on him while he is executed has had a reprieve.
John Henry Ramirez was scheduled to be executed on 8 September, but it was blocked by the US Supreme Court.
Ramirez, 37, was given the news while being held in a cell just feet away from the Texas death chamber at the Huntsville Unit prison.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson Jason Clark was the person who told the convict about the reprieve. Clark told the Associated Press: "He was quiet when I let him know.
"He shook his head and said: 'Thank you very much. God bless you.'"
Ramirez was handed the death penalty for the brutal murder of 45-year-old convenience store worker Pablo Castro in 2004.
Ramirez stabbed Castro 29 times during a botched robbery that ended in him and his two co-defendants making off with just $1.25.
Following the killing, Ramirez fled to Mexico and remained on the run for four years until he was eventually arrested.
Lawyers working on behalf of Ramirez say the Texas Department of Criminal Justice were violating his First Amendment right to practice his religion.
In court documents, lawyer Seth Kretzer said: "It is hostile toward religion, denying religious exercise at the precise moment it is most needed: when someone is transitioning from this life to the next."
Dana Moore, who has been Ramirez's spiritual adviser for the last four years, says the request is simply about allowing the death row inmate to practice his religion 'with a certain amount of dignity'.
Pastor Moore said: "John's sentence wasn't death and you can't have any meaningful contact.
"He is paying for his crime. I guess the question that would come up, is that not enough?"
In its order, the US Supreme Court granted the reprieve so Ramirez's case could be argued in October or November.
He has previously been granted two stays of execution - one in 2017 so he could find a new lawyer and another in September 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramirez has previously taken part in a BBC Three documentary about his crime and conviction.
Talking about the murder he said: "I had stabbed him in the neck.
"There was like real aggressive gurgling sound. That's what kind of snapped me out of it, and I saw how hurt he was and he was bleeding everywhere. I was just like, 'Oh man. I went too far.'"
Featured Image Credit: BBC