Things That Matter

Texas Death Row Inmate Denied Opportunity To Donate Kidney Before Execution

A death row inmate named Ramiro Gonzales, 39, has been denied an opportunity to donate his kidney by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after an initial evaluation revealed that he’d be an “excellent candidate,” according to CNN.

Gonzales is on death row for the 2001 murder of 18-year-old Bridget Townsend, who he kidnapped and raped before shooting her. Months later, after being jailed for a different rape, Gonzales confessed to the murder and led authorities to Townsend’s remains. He is set to be executed on July 13.

However, Gonzales’s legal and spiritual defense agree that he is a changed man, one who is desperate to atone for what he’s done. “He still wants to save a life,” says cantor Michael Zoosman, who’s maintained a correspondence with Gonzales since January 2021. “And Texas is denying him that.”

Gonzales’ lawyers have petitioned for clemency, but have acknowledged that they would settle for life on parole with the stipulation that Gonzales, who has a rare blood type, would be able to donate his kidney to someone in need.

A statement from Gonzales’ attorney confirmed that he would be “an excellent match for persons who have been on UTMB’s waiting list for close to 10 years because of the same rare B blood type.”

Texas is denying Gonzales the opportunity to donate an organ based on an “‘uncertain timeline, thereby possibly interfering with the court-ordered execution date.'” Because of this, Gonzales’ attorneys have requested a 30-day reprieve to complete the procedure, but those requests have also been denied.

Gonzales’ legal defense is also protesting his conviction based on the work done by his trial lawyers, who failed to bring up Gonzales’ troubled upbringing and didn’t protest against the prosecution’s characterization of Gonzales as having been raised on “a beautiful, gorgeous ranch,” benefitting from “privileges and opportunities that a lot of other kids don’t have,” according to Death Penalty Info.

In reality, Gonzales was born to a mother who didn’t want him and was sexually abused from the age of 6. Gonzales then went to live with his grandparents. One of his cousins says Gonzales was only given “the bare minimum of what a human being could have to survive” with “no love or affection.” Gonzales’ only source of love in his life, his aunt, died at the hands of a drunk driver when Gonzales was 15.

Following her death, Gonzales became addicted to drugs, specifically methamphetamines, and found himself embroiled in a life of addiction and crime. Gonzales was exactly 18 years and 71 days old when he murdered Townsend.

Many experts have begun questioning Texas’ standards for putting inmates on death row, standards that are almost entirely founded on expert opinions of the inmate’s potential for future violence. These requirements have been in place since 1973, when the Supreme Court required many states to rewrite their death penalty policies.

In recent years, the efficacy of this method has been called into question.

According to The Independent, a psychologist named Dr. Edward Gripon, who has conducted over 8,000 evaluations, labeled Gonzales as a continuing threat to society, but recently recanted his initial statements, saying that Gonzales “does not pose a threat of future danger to society,” adding, “If his sentence is commuted, I think that would be a positive thing for all of us.”

During Gonzales’ trial, Gripon based his assessment on a series of false or unverified facts, including the assertion from his cellmate that Gonzales returned to the scene of the crime to defile Townsend’s dead body. That cellmate later recanted his testimony and claimed that officers threatened him with a more extreme sentence if he did not cooperate in demonizing Gonzales.

Per CNN, Zoosman said, “I cannot fathom a more pro-death stance than a state that not only engages in state-sponsored murder of defenseless human beings,” adding, “but one that prevents those in line for that murder from donating their organs to save others’ lives.”

As of now, the only concession granted to Gonzales is the right to have his spiritual advisor, Bri-anne Swan, hold his hand during the execution.

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