A Texas death row inmate who had requested that his execution be postponed so that he could donate a kidney was granted a stay of execution on Tuesday on a separate and unrelated appeal regarding allegedly false testimony given during the penalty phase of his trial.
Ramiro Gonzales, who was convicted of fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection on July 13, according to The Dallas Express. Townsend, a Southwest Texas woman, went missing in 2001; her remains were found nearly two years later.
Gonzales’ attorneys, Thea Posel and Raoul Schonemann, sent a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott on June 29, asking the governor to give Gonzales a 30-day reprieve from his impending execution so he could be a living donor “to someone who is in urgent need of a kidney transplant.”
They stated that after an evaluation by the transplant team at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, their client was determined to be an “excellent candidate.”
The UT team discovered Gonzales has a rare blood type. As a result, his contribution could be critical to someone who is having 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 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. Governor Abbott has not made a ruling on the request.
In the meantime, Gonzales’ attorneys requested a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming that prosecutors presented false testimony during the trial. Prosecutors argued that Gonzales would be a future danger, a legal finding required to impose a death sentence, NBC reports.
Gonzales’ lawyers claimed that a prosecution expert, psychiatrist Edward Gripon, had falsely testified that people who commit sexual assault “have an extremely high rate of… recidivism,” possibly as high as 80%. The attorneys said that a subsequent expert and media reviews found no reliable statistical studies that supported such a high recidivism rate.
According to the inmate’s June 30 petition for habeas corpus, Gripon has since recanted his testimony and no longer believes Gonzales poses a future threat. Furthermore, the recidivism data Gripon used was reportedly discovered to be inaccurate.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the case to the trial court on Monday to determine whether Gripon gave false testimony about recidivism rates and whether that testimony influenced the jury’s decision.
The court of appeals wrote that the trial court would handle the determination of whether Gonzales poses a future danger.
Gonzales’ attorneys said in a statement that they are “grateful for the Court’s decision and [their] day in court.”