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His Execution Stayed, Texas Prisoner Still Hopes to Donate His Rare Kidney Type as Atonement

by Jo Ellen Nott

On July 11, 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution to Ramiro Gonzalez, 40, who had been scheduled to die just two days later. The stay resulted from problems found with testimony given by psychiatrist Edward Gripon during Gonzalez’s 2006 trail. Gripon predicted then a high likelihood Gonzalez would pose a future danger, which led to the death sentence.

Over the last year, Gripon reassessed Gonzales as part of the prisoner’s clemency appeal.  Recanting his previous testimony, he testified in June 2022: “At this point in time I would not diagnose him as an anti-social individual, particularly in retrospect,” adding that “Gonzales seems very sincere in his remorse, admits what he did was wrong, and takes responsibility, that is not something I see very often.” As Raoul Schonemann, an attorney on Gonzalez’ legal team for the appeal, stated: “A death sentence tainted by false and misleading testimony should not be allowed to stand.”  

Gonzalez was 18 years old when he kidnapped, then raped and shot his drug dealer’s girlfriend, Bridget Townsend, also 18 at the time, on his grandparents’ ranch in Dilley. He later said he had hit rock bottom during drug-filled months of despair after the death of the only adult who had shown him love and support was killed by a drunk driver. 

But Gonzalez’s childhood was also disturbing. His 17-year-old mother sniffed paint fumes during her unwanted pregnancy in an attempt to abort his fetus. She fled her parents’ ranch after giving birth, and Gonzalez spent his childhood largely neglected. An uncle began sexually abusing him at age six or seven. Other drunken adults beat him. A 19-year-old woman sexually assaulted him when he was 12, resulting in the birth of a child. At that time, Gonzalez started abusing drugs and alcohol, leading to his first arrest at age 14 for public intoxication. He dropped out of school after seventh grade and by age 16 was a raging addict. 

Through their activism against the death penalty, three individuals came to know Ramiro Gonzalez and advocate on his behalf: Canadian minister Bri-Anne Swan, American federal prison chaplain Michael Zoosman and New York City prison physician Rachael Bedard. They wrote about his remorse over having taken a life, his understanding that he provoked intense hate and his need for atonement, which prompted him to offer his rare blood-type kidney for transplant. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice denied his request to donate the organ, saying he was an ineligible just months before his execution. But Gonzalez still wishes to donate the kidney, and his advocates are advancing the cause.

Sources:  Broadview, The Independent, The Marshall Project, New York Times  

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