Alabama Death Row Inmate Appeals to State: NO AUTOPSY AFTER EXECUTION, Citing Muslim Faith

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An Alabama death row convict who is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection next week has requested that the state waive an autopsy of his body after his execution, claiming that it would violate his religious views as a devout Muslim, according to a complaint.

Keith Gavin, who is scheduled to be executed next Thursday or Friday, claims his body will be subjected to an “invasive autopsy” that will violate his “sincerely held religious beliefs,” as well as Alabama state law, according to a complaint filed by his lawyers last month.

The case names several defendants, including Escambia County District Attorney Steve Billy, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm, and Terry Raybon, warden of the William C. Holman Correctional Facility, where Gavin is on death row.

The action seeks a judicial order prohibiting the defendants from performing the autopsy and requiring them “to respect Mr. Gavin’s constitutional rights and sincerely held religious beliefs.”

According to the complaint, Gavin is a devoted Muslim whose religion “teaches that the human body is a sacred temple, which must be kept whole.” An autopsy, he claims, would degrade his body and “violate the sanctity of keeping his human body intact,” as well as his ability to freely practice his religion.

According to the lawsuit, Gavin’s attorneys have repeatedly attempted to contact state officials in charge of the autopsy procedure to urge that his “earthly remains be handled consistent with his faith,” but have received no answer.

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The lawsuit claims that immediately after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed Gavin’s April 25 letter setting his execution date, the defendants neglected to reply to phone calls, emails, and in-person visits, or refused to engage with Gavin’s attorneys.

Alabama law requires a medical examiner to investigate any death that occurs in any of the state’s prison institutions, and the legislation gives state officials the authority to compel a postmortem autopsy if the death is “unlawful, suspicious, or unnatural.”

“This law is intended to determine with certainty the cause of death in any such event. Following Mr. Gavin’s execution, there will be no doubt as to who or what caused his death. “The State will execute him by lethal injection,” the lawsuit claims.

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CNN has contacted the Alabama Department of Corrections and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office for comment on the complaint.

Alabama has been under fire for its executions, with repeated unsuccessful lethal injections prompting an internal review of the state’s capital penalty system in 2022.

After the issues became public, Ivey requested that the state Department of Corrections perform a “top-to-bottom review of the state’s execution process,” according to CNN. Following the completion of the study, the state began executions last spring.

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