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Death penalty: Texas inmate asks for kidney donation to be postponed

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HOUSTON-

A Texas inmate expected to be put to death within two weeks has asked for his execution to be adjourned so he can donate a kidney.

Ramiro Gonzales will receive a lethal injection on July 13 for fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, a southwestern Texas woman whose remains were found nearly two years after she disappeared in 2001.

In a letter sent Wednesday, Gonzales’ attorneys Thea Posel and Raoul Schonemann asked Republican government Greg Abbott to grant a 30-day reprieve so that the inmate can be considered a living donor “for someone in urgent need of a kidney transplant.”

His attorneys have filed a separate petition with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for a 180-day postponement over the kidney donation.

In their request to Abbott, Gonzales’ lawyers included a letter from Cantor Michael Zoosman, an ordained Jewish cleric from Maryland who has 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 and believe in my heart that this is something is what Ramiro wants to do to make his soul right with his God,” wrote Zoosman.

Gonzales’ lawyers say he is determined to be an “outstanding candidate” for donation after being evaluated by the transplant team at the University of Texas at Galveston Medical Department. The evaluation found that Gonzales has a rare blood type, meaning his donation could benefit someone who may have trouble finding a match.

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

Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy allows inmates to make organ and tissue donations. Agency spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez said Gonzales was ineligible after he applied to become a donor earlier this year. She didn’t give a reason, but Gonzales’ lawyers said in their letter that the agency was objecting because of the pending execution date.

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

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will vote July 11 at Gonzales’ request to that bureau.

Gonzales’ lawyers have filed a separate request with the board to commute his death sentence to a lesser sentence.

They also asked that his execution not go ahead if his spiritual adviser is not allowed to both hold his hand and place another hand on his heart during his execution. A two-day federal trial over this request was set to begin Tuesday in Houston.

Gonzales’ request to postpone his execution for an organ donation is rare among death row inmates in the US, Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Friday.

In 1995, convicted murderer Steven Shelton in Delaware donated a kidney to his mother.

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

“Sceptics will think this is just an attempt to delay the execution. But if that were the case, I think you would see a lot of requests,” said Dunham, whose group does not take a position on the death penalty but has criticized the way states act. executions. “The history of executions in the United States shows that people are not making offers for organ donations with the aim of delaying an execution that is yet to take place.”

In a report, the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit organization that serves under contract with the federal government as the nation’s transplant system, listed several ethical concerns about organ donations from convicted inmates. They include whether such donations could be linked to inmates receiving preferential treatment or whether such organs could be morally compromised because of their links to the death penalty.

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