Death row inmates Patrick Murphy and Domineque Ray each turned to courts recently with a similar plea: Halt my execution if the state won’t let a spiritual adviser of my faith accompany me into the execution chamber.

Both cases wound up at the Supreme Court. The justices overrode a lower court and allowed Ray’s execution to go forward in Alabama in February. But they gave Murphy, a Texas inmate, a temporary reprieve Thursday night.

What the justices wrote suggests the opposite results came down to one thing: timing. Ray didn’t ask to be joined by his spiritual adviser soon enough. Murphy did.

FILE - This undated file photo from the Alabama Department of Corrections shows inmate Dominique Ray. Texas death row inmate Patrick Murphy and Alabama death row inmate Dominique Ray both came to the Supreme Court recently with the same request. Halt my execution, each said, because the state won’t let my spiritual adviser accompany me into the execution chamber, even as other inmates of different faiths get that ability. But while the Supreme Court declined to stop Ray’s execution in February, they gave Murphy a temporary reprieve Thursday night. The difference in the two cases looks like it comes down to when each man asked for his spiritual adviser to be present. Alabama Department of Corrections via AP, File)
FILE – This undated file photo from the Alabama Department of Corrections shows inmate Dominique Ray. Texas death row inmate Patrick Murphy and Alabama death row inmate Dominique Ray both came to the Supreme Court recently with the same request. Halt my execution, each said, because the state won’t let my spiritual adviser accompany me into the execution chamber, even as other inmates of different faiths get that ability. But while the Supreme Court declined to stop Ray’s execution in February, they gave Murphy a temporary reprieve Thursday night. The difference in the two cases looks like it comes down to when each man asked for his spiritual adviser to be present. Alabama Department of Corrections via AP, File)
This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Patrick Murphy. Texas death row inmate Patrick Murphy and Alabama death row inmate Dominique Ray both came to the Supreme Court recently with the same request. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)
This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Patrick Murphy. Texas death row inmate Patrick Murphy and Alabama death row inmate Dominique Ray both came to the Supreme Court recently with the same request. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)