Missouri Executes Intellectually Disabled Man Despite Objections From Pope, Lawmakers

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Ernest Johnson has been put to death for allegedly killing three workers while robbing a convenience store nearly three decades ago.

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Bonne Terre, Mohd. (AP) — A Missouri man was stabbed to death Tuesday for killing three workers while robbing a convenience store nearly three decades ago, Execution of objections From racial justice activists, lawmakers, and even the Pope.

Ernest Johnson died from an injection of pentobarbital at Bonne Terre State Prison. As the process began, he quietly talked to relatives. His breath began to swell, he puffed up his cheeks, then swallowed vigorously. Within seconds, all movement stopped.


In his final written statement, Johnson said he was sorry “and I’m sorry for what I do.” He said that he loves his family and friends and thanked those who prayed for him.

Johnson was pronounced dead at 6:11 pm, nine minutes after the dose. A spokesman for the Department of Corrections said four relatives representing all three victims were present. Johnson’s witnesses included relatives and his lawyer. No family spoke after the hanging.

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Reform spokeswoman Karen Pozman said 59 protesters gathered on the edge of the prison grounds.

This was the first execution in Missouri since May 2020 and only the seventh execution in the US this year.

The state went ahead despite executing Johnson his lawyer claims That doing so would violate the 8th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits the execution of people with intellectual disabilities.

Johnson has a history of scoring extremely low on IQ tests since childhood. His lawyer, Jeremy Weiss, said Johnson was also born with fetal alcohol syndrome and lost about a fifth of his brain tissue when a benign tumor was removed in 2008.

A representative for Pope Francis was among those who urged Republican Governor Mike Parson to pardon, telling Parson in a letter that the Pope “wants to bring to you the simple fact of Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the sanctity of all human life.” Huh.” Parson announced Monday that he would not intervene.

This was not the first time a pope has sought to intervene in a Missouri execution. In 1999, during his visit to St. Louis, Pope John Paul II persuaded Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan to grant clemency to Darrell Mees, before Mees was to be sentenced to death for triple murder. Carnahan, who died in 2000, was a Baptist, as is Parson.

In 2018, Pope Francis converted church teaching That is to say, the death penalty can never be sanctioned because it is an “attack” on human dignity. Catholic leaders have been vocal opponents of the death penalty in many states.

Racial justice activist and two Missouri members of Congress – Democratic US Reps. Corey Bush—of St. Louis—and Emmanuel Cleaver of Kansas City—also called on Parson to show mercy to Johnson, who is Black.

But Parson announced Monday that he would not grant a clemency, and the courts refused to intervene.

Johnson’s crime It shook the city of Missouri, central Columbia, about 28 years ago.

Johnson was a regular customer of Casey’s General Store. Court records show that on February 12, 1994, he had borrowed a .25-caliber pistol from his girlfriend’s 18-year-old son with a plan to rob a store for money to buy drugs.

In a 2004 videotaped interview with a psychologist shown in court, Johnson said he was under the influence of cocaine as he waited for the end client to stop. The store had three employees: manager Mary Bratcher, 46, and employees Mabel Scruggs, 57, and Fred Jones, 58.

On the video, Johnson said he became angry when Bratcher, who claimed there was no safe key, tried to flush it down the toilet. He shot the victims with a borrowed gun, then attacked them with a claw hammer. Bracher was also hit with a screwdriver in his hand. Police found two victims in the bathroom of the store and the third in the cooler.

“It was a terrible crime,” said Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane at the time. “It was painful, and it was intense.”

Police officers searching a nearby farm found a bloody screwdriver, gloves, jeans and a brown jacket, and questioned Johnson within hours of the murder. At the home of Johnson’s girlfriend, officers found a bag with bloody shoe prints for $443, coin wrappers, partially burnt checks and tennis shoes from inside the store.

Johnson had earlier said by whom his execution should be carried out Fire extinguisher Team. His lawyers argued that Missouri’s lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, could trigger seizures by causing brain tissue damage when the tumor was removed.

Missouri law does not authorize execution by firing squad.

Johnson was sentenced to death twice more at his first trial. The second death penalty, in 2003, was when the US Supreme Court ruled that execution of the mentally ill was unconstitutionally cruel. The Missouri Supreme Court struck down the second death sentence, and Johnson was sentenced for a third time in 2006.

Of the six previous US executions this year, three were in Texas and three involved federal prisoners.

The peak year for modern executions was 1999, when there were 98 across the US, a gradual decline in that number and last year just 17 people were executed – 10 federal prisoners, three in Texas and Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama. and Missouri included one each. According to a database compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.


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