Missouri’s governor has rejected a clemency request from convicted Columbia triple killer Ernest Lee Johnson, clearing the way for Tuesday’s scheduled execution in southeast Missouri’s Bonne Terre.
Barring intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court or a federal judge, Johnson will be executed by lethal injection at the state’s maximum-security prison in Bonne Terre.
“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,” Governor Mike Parson says, in a written statement. The governor made the announcement late Monday afternoon.
Pope Francis called on Governor Parson to block the execution. The Pope’s personal representative sent a letter to the governor, citing Ernest Lee Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life. Johnson’s attorney says executing Johnson would violate the U.S. Constitution, saying his client is intellectually disabled.
Johnson was convicted of killing three people with a hammer at a now-closed Columbia Casey’s convenience store in February 1994. One of the victims was also shot. The three victims were Mary Bratcher, Mable Scruggs and Fred Jones.
Two Democratic members in Missouri’s congressional delegation called for Governor Parson to stay the execution. They are U.S. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Kansas City) and Cori Bush (D-St. Louis). Congressman Cleaver tweeted Monday that “state-sanctioned execution of the intellectually disabled is both morally reprehensible and egregiously unconstitutional.”
Governor Parson disagrees with that. He says three juries have reviewed Johnson’s case and recommended a death sentence.
“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. Mr. Johnson has received due process under the laws in the state trial court, Missouri Supreme Court, federal district court, 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court,” Parson says.
He also emphasizes the brutality of the 1994 murders, and says the evidence showed Johnson went to great lengths to plan and conceal the crimes.