In 1995, Ernest Lee Johnson was convicted in the horrific killing of three Missouri convenience store employees—46-year-old Mary Bratcher, 57-year-old Mable Scruggs, and 58-year-old Fred Jones—with a claw hammer. Johnson’s lawyers have argued that in 2008 an operation on a brain tumor left him with a fifth of his brain gone with Johnson to be rendered intellectually disabled and to kill him would be inhumane.
Missouri doesn’t care.
What’s transpired is a national debate on how the death penalty is applied and whether or not Johnson—who is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, barring a last-second reprieve—should be spared.
“The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice,” Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) wrote in a letter to Republican Missouri Gov. Michael L. Parson to halt the 61-year-old’s imminent execution, the Kansas City Star reports. “They are about who has institutional power and who doesn’t. Like slavery and lynching did before it, the death penalty perpetuates cycles of trauma, violence and state-sanctioned murder in Black and brown communities.”
Cleaver and Bush are the latest to join the fight that includes...wait, let me make sure I’m reading this correctly...the pope.
Waitaminute...if the pope has said there should be no execution then why are they proceeding with this? I mean his holiness has said enough so that should be it.
The Daily Beast reports that “The Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S. also passed along a letter from Pope Francis to Gov. Parson this week with an ‘urgent plea’ to stop the execution, requesting clemency for Johnson to uphold the ‘sacredness of human life.’”
Unless a miracle happens, “Johnson is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre on Tuesday evening,” the Daily Beast notes.
In 2008, Johnson had a benign tumor on his brain and an operation left him without some 20 percent of his brain tissue. As such, Johnson has been intellectually disabled and in his current medical state, his planned execution could cause Johnson violent and painful seizures.
Protestors have called the execution cruel and unusual punishment.
From the Daily Beast:
His attorney has already exhausted all options to spare him. The Missouri Supreme Court last month shot down the defense’s argument that Johnson is intellectually disabled, ruling that while IQ tests do show sub-average intelligence, he proved fully capable of planning the robbery and murders at the Casey’s General Store in 1994.
Johnson’s attorney, Jeremy Weis, said the court’s ruling was riddled with “legal and factual errors” and that Johnson “meets all statutory and clinical definitions” of intellectual disability. Weis argues that Johnson should be protected under the Eighth Amendment, which bars the execution of intellectually disabled people. He said IQ tests put Johnson’s intellect somewhere in the range of 67-77.
Last week, dozens of people protested outside of the Missouri Capitol, including the ACLU of Missouri and the state chapter of the NAACP.
There has been no word from Parson amid mounting pressure to stop Johnson’s execution.