A Texas death row inmate is asking for a 30-day reprieve to donate a kidney. 2 potential recipients have been found, according to his lawyers
Since then, at least two “preliminarily matched” kidney recipients have been identified, including a cancer survivor in Bellingham, Washington, with the same rare blood type as Gonzales who spent four years on dialysis “hoping for a life-saving kidney transplant. The inmate’s attorneys wrote to the governor on Monday in a letter they shared with CNN.
“It seems almost impossible, but God works in mysterious ways,” potential recipient Judy Frith wrote Sunday in a letter to Abbott that Gonzales’ attorneys submitted with their own. “Whether or not Mr. Gonzales can donate to me, I can’t stress enough how valuable a gift you would be giving someone if you allowed Mr. Gonzales to donate his kidney.”
CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which let Gonzales be evaluated for organ donation, opposed Gonzales’ donation efforts because of his impending execution date, his lawyers wrote.
Gonzales initially sought to donate his kidney to a member of a Jewish congregation in Maryland whom he had heard of in correspondence with his religious leader. But his rare blood type meant he was not a match. Since then, he has sought altruistic kidney donation, that is, donating his kidney without a known or intended recipient.
However, he was deemed ineligible under the state Criminal Justice Department’s health care policy, a department spokesperson confirmed July 3 to CNN. The agency does not allow altruistic kidney donation because it could introduce an “‘uncertain timeline, thus potentially interfering with the court-ordered execution date,'” and does not guarantee cost coverage, it said. she told Gonzales’ attorneys, they said in a statement.
“He still wants to save a life,” Cantor Michael Zoosman, the ordained Jewish cleric whose letters with Gonzales first catalyzed the inmate’s desire to donate a kidney, told CNN. “And Texas denies him that.”
Gonzales ‘very eager’ to donate
In October 2002, sitting in a county jail waiting to be taken to jail for an unrelated matter, Gonzales led authorities to her body and eventually confessed to killing Townsend, records show.
Since Gonzales and Zoosman began corresponding in January 2021, the inmate “has never made excuses for what he’s done,” Zoosman, a federal hospital chaplain and founder of L’chaim! Jews against the death penalty, told CNN.
Gonzales got the idea to donate a kidney when Zoosman mentioned that someone in his congregation needed a donated kidney, Zoosman told CNN.
“I just mentioned this to him in a letter…and he jumped on it,” Zoosman said, adding that Gonzales was “very impatient” and even wrote a letter to the person who needed the kidney.
“It was something he wanted to do to atone for the life he had taken,” Zoosman said.
Rare blood type makes Gonzales a ‘great match’
Gonzales has “actively sought” to be evaluated for organ donation since then, his attorneys, Thea Posel and Raoul Schonemann of the University of Texas at the Capital Punishment Clinic in Austin, said last week in a statement to CNN.
The state Criminal Justice Department cleared him this year for evaluation, the attorneys said in their June 29 letter to the governor, by the medical branch of the University of Texas at Galveston, where Gonzales was determined as an “excellent candidate” for the donation. However, Gonzales’ rare B blood type meant he was not a match for Zoosman’s coven member.
“But that didn’t stop Ramiro,” Zoosman said. “Out of his own free will, he sought through his legal team to find another way to do this, to become an altruistic kidney donor.”
The medical center told Gonzales’ lawyers that his rare blood type would make him “a great match for people who have been on the UTMB waiting list for almost 10 years because of the same rare B blood type.” , according to the attorneys’ statement. The medical center — which declined to comment for this story, citing federal medical confidentiality law — assured Gonzales’ team in March that the donation process could be completed within a month, the attorneys said.
Over the past few weeks, Gonzales’ attorneys have repeatedly called on the state Department of Criminal Justice to reconsider its stance on altruistic donations, according to Posel and Schonemann’s statement. The ministry denied the claims, they noted.
It remains to be seen whether identifying two potential recipients will cause the state’s criminal justice department to change course or impact the governor’s decision-making. One of the possible recipients hopes that the precious organ will go to him or someone else in need.
Frith knew she “had to be prepared for a long wait for a rare kidney” because of her type B blood, she wrote in her letter to Abbott shared by Gonzales’ lawyers. She was shocked to learn that Gonzales had a matching blood type.
“Imagine a potential recipient who has been waiting for 6 years or more for an elusive type B kidney, feeling sicker and more desperate with each passing day,” she said. “You have the ability to save that person’s life by allowing Mr. Gonzales to donate.”
“He didn’t expect this to lead to his clemency”
Gonzales’ attorneys have also asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that the governor commute their client’s sentence to life in prison, according to their statement. Alternatively, they asked for a 180-day reprieve to complete a possible kidney donation.
The council declined to comment to CNN, although a spokesperson noted that members were voting on clemency two days before a scheduled execution, in accordance with its policy.
Gonzales also has other ongoing court cases that could delay his execution: In one case, he sought to have the state criminal justice department let his spiritual adviser — who is not Zoosman — pose. one hand on his chest, hold his hand and pray audibly as he performs. That request had previously been denied, but a federal judge in a preliminary injunction this month ruled that the state could only execute Gonzales on Wednesday if it allowed it, according to court documents.
But while these legal proceedings could be efforts to stop or delay Gonzales’ execution, Zoosman strongly believes the inmate’s attempt to become a kidney donor is not.
“Never in his correspondence with me did he indicate that he thought this would be a way out or a way to save his life. He didn’t expect that to lead to his clemency,” Zoosman said. In fact, according to Zoosman, Gonzales didn’t want to publicly reveal that he was looking to donate a kidney. He only decided to do so, the chaplain said, because his request was denied.
“But I can say this: I can’t imagine a more pro-death stance than a state that not only engages in state-sponsored killings of defenseless human beings,” he added, “but who stops those in line for this murder from donating their organs to save the lives of others.”