A Texas inmate whose execution is scheduled to take place later this month has asked Texas Governor Greg Abbott to grant him a 30-day reprieve so he can donate his kidney.
Ramiro Gonzales, who was convicted of fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on July 13, according to The Washington Post. Townsend, a Southwest Texas woman, went missing in 2001 before her remains were found nearly two years later.
Gonzales’ attorneys, Thea Posel and Raoul Schonemann, sent a letter to Abbot on June 29, asking the governor to grant their client a 30-day reprieve from his impending execution so he can be a living donor “to someone who is in urgent need of a kidney transplant.”
They said their client was determined to be an “excellent candidate” in an evaluation by the transplant team at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
The UT team found Gonzales to possess a rare blood type. Consequently, his donation could prove vital to someone who might have difficulty finding a match.
“Virtually all that remains is the surgery to remove Ramiro’s kidney. UTMB has confirmed that the procedure could be completed within a month,” Posel and Schonemann wrote in the letter to Governor Abbott.
Accompanying their request to Abbott, Posel and Schonemann included a letter from Cantor Michael Zoosman, an ordained clergyman from Maryland who has corresponded with the inmate for some time.
Zoosman maintained in his letter that he wholeheartedly believes Gonzales’ 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 that Ramiro wants to do to help make his soul right with his God,” Zoosman wrote.
Abbott’s office has not issued any statement on Gonzales’ attorneys’ request.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Director of Communications, Amanda Hernandez, said Gonzales was deemed ineligible following the inmates’ earlier request to be a donor even though the agency’s policies allow inmates to donate their organs and tissue. Hernandez did not give a specific reason as to why the inmate was deemed ineligible.
Gonzales’ attorneys have also made a separate request to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, asking for a 180-day reprieve for the same reason. The board has scheduled a vote for July 11 on Gonzales’ request to that agency.
The attorneys additionally asked the board to commute their client’s death sentence and hand him a lesser penalty.
Posel and Schonemann asked the board not to proceed with their client’s execution if his spiritual adviser is not allowed to hold his hand and place another hand on his heart during his execution. A federal trial, lasting two days, began on July 5 in Houston to determine if this specific request will be granted.
Gonzales’ request to have his execution delayed for an organ donation is rare among death row inmates in the country, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Dunham said that skeptics would think Gonzales’ request is an attempt to delay his execution, but there would have been many requests such as Gonzales’ if that were the case.
“The history of executions in the United States shows that people don’t make offers of organ donations for the purpose of delaying an execution that will still take place,” said Dunham.