Texas prisoner asks to delay execution for kidney donation


A Texas inmate due to be executed in less than two weeks has asked that his execution be delayed 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 nearly 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 reprieve so the inmate could be considered a living donor “for someone who is in dire need of a kidney transplant.” “. .”

His attorneys have made a separate request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for a 180-day suspension related to the kidney donation.

In their request to Abbott, Gonzales’ attorneys included a letter from cantor Michael Zoosman, an ordained Jewish clergyman from Maryland who has corresponded with Gonzales.

“There has been no doubt in my mind 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 help his soul be right with his God,” Zoosman wrote.

Gonzales’ attorneys say he has been determined to be an “excellent candidate” for donation after being evaluated by the transplant team at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The evaluation found that Gonzales has a rare blood type, which means donating him could benefit someone who might have a hard time finding a match.

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

Texas Department of Criminal Justice policies allow inmates to make organ and tissue donations. Agency spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez said Gonzales was deemed ineligible after applying to be a donor earlier this year. She did not give a reason, but Gonzales’ attorneys said in her letter that the agency objected because of the pending execution date.

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

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

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

They also asked that his execution not proceed if his spiritual adviser is unable to hold his hand and place another hand on his heart during his execution. A two-day federal trial on this request was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Houston.

Gonzales’ request to delay his execution for organ donation is rare among US death row inmates, 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 delayed so his request 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, I think they would see a lot of requests,” said Dunham, whose group takes no position on capital punishment but has criticized the way states They carry out executions. “The history of executions in the United States shows that people do not make offers of organ donations in order to delay an execution that is yet to take place.”

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

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