Missouri to execute Ernest Johnson after Joe Biden vows to end capital punishment

Missouri is expected to carry out the fourth execution of the Biden administration on Tuesday, despite the president’s call to end the death penalty during his campaign.

Ernest Lee Johnson, 61, is to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. in Bonne Terre State Prison. He was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing three people in a 1994 robbery from a convenience store in Columbia.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson confirmed on Monday that the execution will take place, despite calls from anti-death penalty activists to arrest him.

“Mr Johnson was tried and convicted of the brutal murder of three innocent victims in a 1994 robbery. Evidence showed Mr Johnson went to great lengths to plan and cover up his crime. Three juries reviewed Mr Johnson’s case and recommended a death sentence, ”Parson wrote in a statement.

Opponents of the death penalty had previously called on him to stop the execution, citing the Eighth Amendment ban on executing people with mental disabilities.

Jeremy Weis, Johnson’s lawyer, said Johnson was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and lost around 20 percent of his brain tissue during surgery in 2008 to remove a benign tumor. Tests and IQ indicated he had the intellectual capacity of a child, according to Weis.

Elyse Max, executive director of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, previously said News week, that he “categorically fulfills the three criteria for diagnosing an intellectual disability and should benefit from a pardon upon execution”.

Representatives Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver, both Democrats from Missouri, on Friday called for a halt to the execution, writing in a letter to the governor: “The execution of Mr Johnson would be a grave act of injustice.” A petition calling for clemency for Johnson had received nearly 27,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

Pope Francis also joined the calls, urging Parson to remember the “sanctity of life”.

However, President Joe Biden has remained silent on the matter, despite pushing for an end to the death penalty during his 2020 presidential campaign, although throughout his political career he has occasionally pushed. strict crime policies. A 1994 crime bill he supported created 60 new death penalty offenses.

“More than 160 people sentenced to death in this country since 1973 have subsequently been exonerated,” reads his campaign program. “Because we cannot guarantee that death penalty cases are correct every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and encourage states to follow suit. federal government. Instead, they should be serving life sentences without probation or parole. “

Death penalty opponents have previously criticized Biden after the administration asked the Supreme Court to renew the Boston Marathon bomber’s death sentence and have remained largely silent as conservative states, including Texas, have continued executions throughout his presidency.

“Biden’s lack of action is unacceptable,” lawyer and activist Ashley Kincaid Eve said in June. “It’s the easiest campaign promise to keep, and his refusal to keep it … is political cowardice.”

News week contacted the White House for comment on the execution Tuesday morning, but had not received a response by post. This story will be updated with any response.

Missouri was scheduled to execute Ernest Lee Johnson on Tuesday. Here, activists protest against the death penalty in front of the United States Supreme Court in January 2017.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

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