October ((WNN) – A federal judge has postponed the next week’s execution of a Texas man convicted of killing a pregnant woman and her one-year-old son in 2005.
Stephen Barbie, 54, was scheduled to receive a fatal injection Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Kenneth White delivered his verdict Thursday. A judge in the Southern District of Texas has suspended executions on religious grounds.
Barbie’s lawyers say the Texas Criminal Court violated their client’s religious rights by not allowing her spiritual adviser to have physical contact with her during the lethal injection.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month suspended the death sentence of another Texas death row inmate, John Ramirez, after he denied his spiritual adviser the power to lay hands on him during the execution.
Texas prison officials have argued that allowing a spiritual adviser into the death chamber could jeopardize the process.
Two years ago, the TDCJ banned kings from entering the execution chamber after the Supreme Court suspended the death sentence because the state refused to allow a Buddhist spiritual adviser to accompany him to the death chamber.
In April, the state lifted the ban, amending the policy to allow a chief or other spiritual adviser to be appointed to attend death chambers.
Less than a week after their deaths, Barbie took police in Fort Worth, Texas, to 34-year-old Lisa Underwood and her son, 7-year-old Jayden, in a remote area north of town. Investigators say Barbie told them she was romantically involved with Underwood and believed her unborn child could be hers and cause problems in her marriage to another woman.
Both died of suffocation.
Barbie later reconsiders her confession and says she is innocent of the murder.