Supreme Court halts execution, rules that personal pastor must be present in execution chamber

The U.S. Supreme Court intervened to halt the execution of an Alabama man, saying that the prisoner must be allowed to have his personal pastor in the execution chamber with him.

CBS News reports:

An Alabama inmate on Thursday won a reprieve from a scheduled lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court said the state must allow his personal pastor in the death chamber.

The lethal injection of Willie B. Smith III was called off by Alabama after justices maintained an injunction issued by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saying he could not be executed without his pastor present in chamber. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose said the execution would not proceed given the ruling. Alabama has maintained that non-prison staff should not be in the room for security reasons.

The opinion was written by liberal Justice Elena Kagan:

“Willie Smith is sentenced to death, and his last wish is to have his pastor with him as he dies,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a concurring opinion with three other justices.

“Alabama has not carried its burden of showing that the exclusion of all clergy members from the execution chamber is necessary to ensure prison security. So the State cannot now execute Smith without his pastor present, to ease what Smith calls the ‘transition between the worlds of the living and the dead,'” Kagan wrote. Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined with three liberal justices to let the ruling stand.

It’s an interesting collision of law and order forces, with the religious convictions of court members, including devout Catholic Amy Coney Barrett.

Willie B. Smith killed a 22-year-old Birmingham woman in the trunk of her own car in 1991. The Sun reports:

Sharma Ruth Johnson was a 22-year-old white female who was abducted at gunpoint from an automatic teller site at a local bank before she was murdered.

She was subjected to a brutal death in the trunk of her own car after pleading with Smith for her life, assuring him she would not go to the police.

Smith was recorded on a wire tap describing her final moments before the slaying: “She said, no I ain’t like that, she said that. I touched her head, I said you’re a m***********g liar, boom!”

From the available evidence, it doesn’t appear that Smith provided Johnson with a “spiritual advisor” during the last minutes of her life. Count on the media to paint him as the victim and ignore the real victim of such a horrific crime.