State Watch

Missouri inmate executed despite pleas from Pope, lawmakers

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An empty prison cell is seen in this Aug. 30, 2018, file photo. Several bills pending in Congress would attempt to correct sentencing disparities.

The state of Missouri executed an inmate Tuesday following pleas from the pope and members of Congress to halt the execution due to concerns over his intellectual disabilities. 

Ernest Lee Johnson died from a pentobarbital injection at 6:11 p.m. at a state prison and could be seen mouthing “I love you” to family members, according to ABC17 News. 

Johnson was put to death for killing three workers while robbing a convenience store in Columbia, Mo., in 1994. In August, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against Johnson’s team’s claim that he was ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disabilities. Johnson reportedly had about one-fifth of his brain tissue taken out during an operation to treat a brain tumor. 

The inmate also had a history of scoring very low on IQ tests dating back to his childhood, and his attorney said that Johnson was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, The Associated Press reported. 

Johnson had previously requested for his death to be carried out by firing squad, as the drug used for lethal injection could trigger seizures. His request was denied since death by firing squad is not authorized under Missouri law, according to the AP. 

In a letter to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) Friday, Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) urged the governor against executing Johnson.

“The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice,” the representatives wrote. “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.”

Pope Francis also called on Parson last week to grant clemency to Johnson. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., emphasized Johnson’s “humanity and the sacredness of all human life” in a letter to the Missouri governor.

Tags Cori Bush Cori Bush death penalty execution Missouri Pope Francis Pope Francis

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