Ernest Johnson Executed in Missouri Despite His Existing Intellectual Disability

Even a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court wasn’t enough to grant Ernest Johnson clemency. The death row inmate who many supporters had hoped to save due to his existing intellectual disability was executed on Tuesday, Oct. 5, in the state of Missouri.

CNN’s Raja Razek and Paul LeBlanc reported that “Johnson — who was convicted of robbing a gas station and murdering three clerks nearly 27 years ago — was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m. CT after the administration of a lethal injection.”

In the petition to save Johnson’s life submitted to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Johnson’s legal team argued that the 61-year-old had “presented overwhelming evidence” of an intellectual disability.

“This Court should stay Mr. Johnson’s execution so that his petition for certiorari can be fully and fairly considered by this Court,” Johnson’s lawyers wrote. “There is no state interest in executing people with intellectual disabilities. The balance of equities weighs in Mr. Johnson’s favor.”

After reviewing the petition, the Supreme Court denied Johnson’s request to stop the execution, just as the Missouri Supreme Court had ruled earlier this year.

Razek and LeBlanc reported on the press release issued by the Missouri Governor’s Office on Monday, Oct. 4, which said, “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.”

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also publicly supported the execution, saying “the state is prepared to deliver justice and carry out the lawful sentence Mr. Johnson received in accordance with the Missouri Supreme Court’s order.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court had previously ruled against Johnson in May when he had sought to have his execution carried out by firing squad over fears that the state’s lethal injection protocol would likely produce excruciating seizures because of his brain tumor,” CNN reported. “Johnson suffered from epilepsy as a result of the tumor, and his lawyers argued that his condition would be exacerbated if he were executed by pentobarbital, a class of drugs known to produce seizures.”

In a handwritten final statement that he shared with the media on Tuesday, Oct. 5, Johnson said, in part, “I am sorry and have remorse for what I [did].” He also expressed his love for his friends and family, as well as his supporters, lawyers and those who prayed for him.

Despite Johnson’s execution and the Supreme Court’s endorsement of his death, the death penalty continues to plummet in popularity with the public as a whole. In 2019, for the first time in at least 30 years, Razek and LeBlanc said that a Gallup poll revealed that 60% of Americans support life imprisonment without the possibility of parole over taking away an inmate’s life.


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