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High Court Halts Execution Over Pastor Request


The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Dunn v. Smith that Alabama cannot execute a death row inmate, Willie B. Smith III, without his pastor in the death chamber. Justice Elena Kagan said a federal law protecting the religious rights of prisoners set a high bar Alabama did not meet. “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,” Kagan wrote. The Court said other states must find a way to honor final requests for a spiritual adviser in the death chamber. Alabama can try again to execute Smith once it institutes procedures for allowing spiritual advisers to accompany inmates.