Ernest Johnson set to be executed in a few hours despite questions over his intellectual capacity

Anti-death penalty advocates — joined by Pope Francis, two members of Congress and a former governor — continued to talk out hours forward of Tuesday’s deliberate execution of Missouri loss of life row inmate Ernest Johnson, whose lawyer argues killing the person who has an mental incapacity would violate the Structure.

Johnson, who was convicted within the murders of three comfort retailer staff virtually three many years in the past, was denied clemency Monday from Gov. Mike Parson, which implies solely a last-minute intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court docket would spare him.

In one other submitting to the excessive court docket Tuesday, Johnson’s authorized workforce reiterated IQ exams have indicated he has the mental capability of a kid, and wrote that there could be “no tangible hurt” if his execution was delayed whereas questions over whether or not decrease courts had “constitutionally thought-about” his incapacity are additional explored.

“This Court docket has stated states merely can’t execute the intellectually disabled,” Johnson’s attorneys wrote, referring to a 2002 Supreme Court docket ruling.

Ernest Johnson.Missouri Division of Corrections through AP

Johnson, 61, is scheduled to die by deadly injection at 6 p.m. CT at a state jail in Bonne Terre. It will likely be the primary execution by Missouri jail officers since Could 2020, because the pandemic put a maintain on states’ loss of life chamber operations earlier than Texas jump-started the follow this yr.

Amongst Johnson’s supporters are Democratic U.S. Reps. Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver, who urged Parson, a Republican, to rethink his place.

Bush, a racial justice activist, has additionally famous the racial disparities that the jail system and loss of life penalty have had on Black and Latino males, and believes that executing Johnson, who’s Black, does not deal with the systemic points.

“Time is working out,” Bush tweeted.

Francis final week expressed his assist for Johnson, in keeping with a letter from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s ambassador to america, by which he says the pontiff urged Parson to grant the inmate “some applicable type of clemency.”

Francis declined to weigh in on the “circumstances of the crime,” however slightly highlighted a bigger ethical alternative that have to be thought-about, in keeping with the letter.

“His Holiness needs to put earlier than you the easy truth of Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life,” Pierre wrote.

Parson stated this week that he stays unswayed by these in search of to halt the execution, and that Johnson is competent to be put to loss of life, noting that the courts over time, together with Missouri’s highest court docket, have rejected his appeals.

“The state is ready to ship justice and perform the lawful sentence Mr. Johnson acquired in accordance with the Missouri Supreme Court docket’s order,” he stated in a press release.

Johnson has additionally requested to be executed by firing squad, which the Missouri Supreme Court docket denied in August.

Final Could, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court docket refused to take up Johnson’s case after his lawyer argued that mind injury places him susceptible to extreme and painful seizures if he is executed by deadly injection.

A scan of Ernest Johnson’s mind displaying a gap in his cranium and mind lacking, in keeping with a court docket affidavit.

Lawyer Jeremy Weis stated Johnson was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and likewise misplaced one-fifth of his mind tissue with the elimination of a benign tumor in 2008. That mind defect, which left a small gap in his cranium, scar tissue and a clean area the place the tumor was eliminated, may inflict additional ache, he added.

Missouri Lawyer Common Eric Schmitt, a Republican, wrote in a response Monday to Johnson’s keep of execution request that what he was convicted of doing in 1994 belies his claims of an mental incapacity.

“The details of the offense plainly mirror the offender’s skill to plan, strategize, calculate, and scheme successfully,” the state wrote to the excessive court docket.

Prosecutors stated Johnson used a claw hammer to fatally bludgeon a supervisor, Mary Bratcher, 46, and staff Mabel Scruggs, 57, and Fred Jones, 58, throughout a closing-time theft on the Casey’s Common Retailer in Columbia on Feb. 12, 1994. He was stealing cash for medication, in keeping with court docket paperwork.

Among the victims’ relations have beforehand stated they needed to look at Johnson’s execution and have been in favor of placing him to loss of life for his actions.

“I do not wish to sound inhumane, but when there’s any ache, so be it,” Bratcher’s son, Rob, stated in 2015.

Bob Holden, who was Missouri’s governor from 2001 to 2005, wrote Sunday in The Kansas Metropolis Star that whereas his workplace oversaw 20 executions, Johnson’s case is an outlier due to the questions over his mental capability.

“None of this excuses what Johnson did,” he wrote. “But when our state is to be guided by the rule of legislation, we should mood our comprehensible anger with cause and compassion for essentially the most weak amongst us, together with Ernest Johnson.”

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