ST. LOUIS – A petition containing more than 20,000 signatures has been sent to Missouri Governor Mike Parson, asking him to grant clemency to a St. Louis man sentenced to die in two weeks.
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Missouri NAACP, religious organizations, and others rallied at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City on Tuesday, hoping to win clemency for Kevin Johnson.
Johnson, 37, is on death row for the 2005 murder of Kirkwood police Sgt. William McEntee.
Organizers believe he received the death penalty because of a racially biased prosecution.
“Punishing people because you have the ability to is not justice,” said Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri NAACP. “We see now that prosecutors are embracing the mantel of justice, preventing people from being killed simply because of inequities of the system. It’s important that we continue that work. Kevin Johnson is one of many people who are suffering in Missouri’s penal institution as a result of the injustices.”
Johnson is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 29. Johnson killed McEntee when he was 19 years old. Johnson’s family and friends said he regrets it.
“I would want people to know he is not a bad person,” said Khorry Ramey, Johnson’s daughter. “He just made a terrible mistake that could possibly cost him his life. I would just want people to have mercy on him and reconsider.”
Romona Miller was Johnson’s biology teacher at Kirkwood High School.
“I truly believe that this is a case that he has taken responsibility for what he did,” Miller said. “No one is asking for him to be released, but I truly believe in this case, in this instance, that the death penalty is not warranted.”
Teresa Fuller has known Johnson since the fourth grade and often communicate with him.
“He’s very remorseful and is wholeheartedly wants to give his condolences to the McEntee family and let them know it was a mistake, and he is truly sorry,” Fuller said.
Former St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, who prosecuted the case at the time, said that the death penalty was appropriate in Johnson’s case because Johnson ambushed and purposefully attacked McEntee. McCulloch said Johnson shot the officer five times in the patrol car, which crashed, and then shot the officer two more times when he was pulled out of the car on his hands and knees.
Parson’s office released the following statement:
“As with all clemency decisions, clemency applications are submitted to the parole board for review and recommendation. The materials are then sent from the parole board to the governor’s legal team, who conduct an extensive review and meet with the governor on the matter. The governor then considers the matter and makes a decision when he is prepared to do so. These are not decisions that the governor takes lightly, and the process is underway as it relates to the execution scheduled for later this month.”