Mercy For John Ramirez

by Sean Wild


Cover image by Michael Starghill/The Marshall Project


On October 5, 2022, the state of Texas plans to execute John Ramirez. Ramirez had previously been set to be executed in September of 2021, however, a stay of execution was granted by the United States Supreme Court to review a claim that Ramirez had been denied his First Amendment right to religious freedom. At that time, Ramirez requested that his Christian pastor be present at his execution to pray and lay hands over him, a request that was denied. On March 24, 2022, after review, The Court found the claim to be valid. The new October 5th execution date was then set.


Ramirez has been on death row since 2008 for the murder of Pablo Castro in 2004. The murder took place during a drug-fueled robbery of a convenience store; Ramirez was one of three people involved in the robbery. While incarcerated, Ramirez studied many religions and became connected with a Baptist Pastor named Dana Moore. Since turning to Christianity, Ramirez has been involved in the first ever faith-based unit on Texas’ Death Row. Chaplin Joaquin Gay describes the program as “an intensive, voluntary, twelve to eighteen month program that seeks to provide men with a living area separated from the other inmate population that is conducive to change and designed to provide resident offenders with a curriculum of meaningful opportunities for personal growth and improvement.”


Prior to the crime, Ramirez had served time in the United States Marine Corps and was honorably discharged. Ramirez has since been diagnosed with personality disorder with borderline, antisocial, and dependent traits. On the topic of veterans and the death penalty, retired Navy Captain Art Cody said, “My experiences compel me inexorably to the conclusion that all Americans should take pause and consider how military veterans are treated in the US judicial system, particularly with respect to capital punishment,” and that “the military experience, particularly if it involves combat, indelibly shapes the veteran, and often has significant causal or mitigation implications relating to criminal offenses.”


Pablo Castro’s son Aaron was initially in favor of the death penalty, which is understandable for someone grieving their father’s murder. However, Aaron has had a change of heart over time, and in 2018 said, “I’ve been waiting nine years to see John Ramirez’s last breath. I had a change of heart. I didn’t know John Henry Ramirez has a kid. I don’t want that hate cycle to continue.”


Even Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, the prosecutor on this case, is opposed to this execution and has attempted to stop it. He has attempted to appeal and withdraw the death warrant motion as recently as September 22, a request that was denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.


For opponents of the death penalty, guilt or innocence is not necessarily the driving force to the opposition, but the inherent dignity of all persons. Many also argue that the State should not be given the power to kill its citizens.


John Ramirez is not innocent and does not claim to be. However, since his conviction, Ramirez has turned his life inside the prison walls into one of helping others like him through his faith-based mission. Granting Ramirez a stay of execution and instead commuting his sentence to life in prison would allow him to live out his days helping to bring positive change to himself and those around him, a plan he seems to be living out despite his death sentence. This way could certainly be seen as a more just and equitable way to amend for one's crime.


While the fight to end the unjust practice of the death penalty may at times feel like a steep uphill battle, it is important to do what one is able to. Below, you will find a petition link to send a request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, adding your voice to those calling for mercy to stop the execution of John Ramirez.


actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-the-execution-of-john-ramirez-in-texas

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