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Texas 7 escapee gets second stay of execution after argument over religious discrimination

Patrick Murphy was to be executed next week for his role in the Christmas Eve 2000 murder of Irving Officer Aubrey Hawkins.
Credit: Taylor Lumsden

DALLAS — Patrick Murphy, one of the infamous Texas 7 prison escapees who murdered an Irving police officer while on the run, got his execution stayed again, just days before his date with death.

Murphy was to be executed Nov. 13, for his role in the killing of Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins on Christmas Eve of 2000.

In March, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh ruled that Texas must allow Murphy to have a Buddhist chaplain in the death chamber because the state provides spiritual advisers to other condemned inmates.

The state responded by removing all clergy from the death chamber and a new execution date was set for Murphy.

On Thursday morning, a federal judge put the execution on hold for a second time after the state refused to provide Murphy a Buddhist chaplain in the hours before he goes into the death chamber.

“Murphy’s deposition demonstrates valid concerns about the current TDCJ policy,” wrote U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks in a ruling Thursday morning. 

In court documents, Murphy has said that when he speaks with prison-employed clergy, the conversation "almost always, at one point, would turn towards religion." 

Murphy has said he has felt "an underlying current of a little bit of pressure...to make a last-minute conversion to Christianity" despite his Buddhist beliefs, court records show. 

The state-employed clergy allow an inmate to convert to Christianity in his final moments. Texas prisons do not employ a Buddhist chaplain and the state does not allow non-prison employees inside the death chamber for security reasons.

Judge Hanks, in the Southern District of Texas based in Houston, acknowledged that during the final hours before the execution when “TDCJ denied Murphy in-person access to his chosen spiritual advisor, he interacted with clergy who would “only pray according to [their] faith and [their] belief.”  

TDCJ has chaplains on staff, the judge continued, “…provide spiritual support only to inmates of certain faith groups.”

RELATED: Supreme Court blocks execution of 'Texas 7' inmate

Judge Hanks proposed ending “denominational discrimination” by “ending all contact with all clergy at the same hour for all inmates or [by] allowing all inmates equal access to their chosen spiritual advisors before they enter the death chamber.”

A date will be set for new arguments in this case in federal court.

Murphy had recently been moved to a cell with 24-hour camera surveillance on death row, which all inmates are transferred to when they get an execution date scheduled. He’ll now be moved out of that cell back to another one nearby on death row.

Murphy was 39 when he joined six other inmates in a daring plot to escape from the Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas, on Dec. 13, 2000.

On Christmas Eve, Murphy was the getaway driver who dropped off his fellow escapees to commit a robbery inside the Oshman’s Sporting Goods Store in Irving. When Hawkins responded to the 911 call, the prison escapees shot him 11 times and ran over him with his own patrol car.

After a nationwide manhunt, the infamous Texas 7 were captured near Colorado Springs.

Murphy and Randy Halprin are the final two awaiting execution.

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