Alabama imam banned from execution chamber loses appeal to reinstate lawsuit

By Howard Koplowitz

Yusef Maisonet, an imam who voluntarily leads Muslim services at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, has been seeking permission to spiritually advise Death Row inmates at the time of their executions.

An Alabama imam who was banned from attending the executions of two death row inmates he counseled lost his appeal Friday to reverse the dismissal of his federal lawsuit against the state.

Yusef Maisonet, an imam to Muslim death row inmates Dominique Ray and Nathaniel Wood, alleged that Alabama violated his rights by barring him from attending the inmates’ executions and and advising them before their deaths in the execution chamber.

Maisonet, a volunteer chaplain at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, which houses Alabama’s death row inmates, was denied from attending Ray’s execution in 2019 because of a policy stating that only the official prison chaplain could offer religious advice shortly before the execution.

After Ray’s execution, Alabama’s policy changed to prevent any religious advisors from being in the execution chamber, and Maisonet was barred from attending Wood’s execution in 2020.

The lawsuit filed on Maisonet’s behalf sought to have the Alabama Department of Corrections establish a policy of allowing chaplains, including imams, into the execution chamber.

It also sought monetary damages for Maisonet.

A federal judge in Mobile said the lawsuit could not go forward because Maisonet lacked standing, a decision upheld by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday.

“Maisonet has not alleged any ongoing or certainly impending future injury. And he cannot demonstrate that his past injuries violated clearly established law,” the three-judge panel ruled. “The district court thus correctly determined that this lawsuit cannot move forward.