The execution of a black death row inmate can go ahead Tuesday night after the Missouri supreme court rejected claims the case was tainted by racial bias and ruled he was most likely unsuccessful on challenges. legal.
Special counsel Edward Keenan had argued that the state’s initial handling of Kevin Johnson’s case was fraught with «racist prosecution techniqueswhich influenced his conviction and death sentence for the 2005 murder of a Missouri police officer. Johnson was 19 years old at the time of the arrest.
The Missouri Supreme Court decision released Monday night allows the state to go ahead with the scheduled execution of Johnson, 37, by lethal injection and came after Republican Gov. Mike Parson said in a statement that I wouldn’t grant him clemency «for his horrendous and callous crime.»
The decision was a 5-2 vote, with the majority writing that Keenan’s claims «are largely just repackaged versions of claims that Johnson has made (and seen rejected) many times before. Nothing in the Special Counsel’s motion changes materially these claims or offers a higher likelihood of success than those claims have had in the past.»
The court’s ruling is yet another blow to Johnson’s case after a federal judge on Friday denied his 19-year-old daughter the right to attend his execution based on Missouri law that requires a witness to have at least 21 years.
Keenan was appointed as a special prosecutor by the St. Louis County Circuit Court in October and said in a court filing that he found that County Attorney Robert McCulloch’s office, who lost his reelection in 2018, had engaged in discriminatory practices. . .
Those include how McCulloch’s office prosecuted five police murder cases and sought the death penalty in four cases involving black defendants, but not in the case of a white defendant whose «conduct was more serious,» according to Keenan.
In addition, Keenan said that McCulloch «largely reserved the death penalty» for defendants whose victims were white and that statements he made to other prosecutors «show particular animosity toward young black men like Mr. Johnson, seeing them as a population ‘us to deal with’ and portraying them as stereotypical criminals».
McCulloch could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
Keenan said in a court filing that he also requested a stay of Johnson’s execution because the team of prosecutors during his trial refused to cooperate with his investigation.
«Mr. McCulloch has refused to even acknowledge correspondence from the special counsel asking him about the case, despite his extensive statements to the media about this and other cases,» Keenan said.
After Johnson’s execution date was set, McCulloch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August that he was specifically sentenced to death for the «brutal, vicious and unprovoked murder of a police officer.»
«Nothing to do with his career, my career, anybody’s career,» McCulloch said.
Missouri Assistant Attorney General Andrew Crane reiterated during arguments before the state Supreme Court that Johnson received the death penalty because he killed a police officer, and any other circumstances surrounding the case against him ultimately did not matter.
Johnson was arrested in July 2005 for fatally shooting Kirkwood police officer William McEntee in suburban St. Louis.
McEntee and other officers were serving an arrest warrant for Johnson, who had been on probation for assaulting his girlfriend and was believed to have committed rape.
At that time, her 12-year-old brother, who had a congenital heart defect, suffered a seizure after running next door to their grandmother’s house. He later he died in the hospital. Johnson testified at his trial that McEntee pushed his mother when she arrived on the scene and the officer’s actions angered him because he was concerned about his brother’s health.
When McEntee returned to his neighborhood that night for an unrelated call about a fireworks disturbance, Johnson said, he was met by the officer. According to prosecutors, he shot McEntee multiple times before fleeing. He turned himself in three days later.
During his incarceration, Johnson’s supporters say he turned his life around and has been a supportive father to his daughter, Khorry Ramey, who was 2 when Johnson was arrested. She said that he has been the only father she has ever known after her mother was killed by an ex-boyfriend when she was 4 years old.
«My dad is the most important person in my life. He has been there for me my entire life, even though he has been incarcerated,» Ramey said in a statement Friday after losing his lawsuit to witness his execution. «He is a good father, the only father I have left.»
Johnson has exhausted all his legal remedies. Barring any unforeseen delays, if they run it on Tuesday, it would be the fifth execution by a state this month, which has been the busiest month yet for capital punishment in the United States in 2022.