JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Those calling for a halt to the scheduled execution of convicted killer Ernest Lee Johnson include Pope Francis and two Missouri lawmakers who are part of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Representatives Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver petitioned Governor Mike Parson to grant Johnson clemency.
One of the factors generating a push to halt the execution is the mental capacity of Johnson. His attorney said Johnson has an intellectual disability and argues it would be unconstitutional for the state to execute him.
Several years after the crime, Johnson had part of his brain removed because of a tumor. Bush and others say that’s left Johnson in a condition that would make his execution unconstitutional.
Bush had this message for Governor Parson late Monday night: “You signed up to be a public servant for every person in this state. This is not about personality, this is about humanity. We are asking you to stay this execution because it is the right thing, it is the moral thing, it is the decent thing to do.”
Requests to spare Johnson’s life have been denied and the state of Missouri is prepared to move forward with the execution. Governor Mike Parson released a statement late Monday afternoon stating, in part: “Three juries have reviewed Mr. Johnson’s case and recommended a sentence of death. Mr. Johnson’s claim that he is not competent to be executed has been reviewed and rejected by a jury and the courts six different times, including a unanimous decision by the Missouri Supreme Court.”
Johnson was convicted of killing three employees inside a Columbia store in 1994. He walked into a general store and beat, stabbed, and shot Mary Bratcher, Mable Scruggs, and Fred Jones. Investigators said Johnson hid their bodies in a walk-in cooler before robbing the store.