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Kevin Johnson to be executed in Missouri after stay is denied

TAG24 NEWS logo TAG24 NEWS 11/29/2022 Jamie Grasse

Jefferson, Missouri - On Monday night, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in the planned execution of Kevin Johnson, which is still scheduled for Tuesday. Activists have organized in protest of the move, as Governor Mike Parson has said he will not grant clemency.

Kevin Johnson is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday in Missouri. Collage: Screenshot/ Instagram/ Madpo © Collage: Screenshot/ Instagram/ Madpo Kevin Johnson is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday in Missouri. Collage: Screenshot/ Instagram/ Madpo

The 37-year-old, who was convicted of killing Kirkwood police officer Sgt. William McEntee in 2005 when he was 19, is to be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday.

Johnson's lawyers were seeking to halt the execution, not because they were disputing his guilt, but because they contend he was sentenced to death in part because he is Black. Sgt. McEntee was white.

During an emergency hearing at the Missouri Supreme Court on Monday, special prosecutor E.E. Keenan said racism played a role in the prosecution's decision to seek the death penalty and in the jury's decision to sentence Johnson to death, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispath.

"The evidence is clear that there was racial discrimination infecting this prosecution," Keenan said.

Activist group Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP), who have worked to share Kevin's story, told TAG24 NEWS that they will be organizing around the state on Tuesday.

"MADP will be on watch across Missouri, holding space in communities for all victims of the death penalty. We know that murder is never an appropriate punishment and we are showing up today to let them know that we will not be bystanders in this act of racial terror planned for Kevin Johnson," said MADP's co-director Elyse Max.

Starting Tuesday at 6 PM, Johnson's death warrant will be good for 24 hours. He would be the second Missouri man put to death in 2022 and the 17th nationally.

Also interesting:

Kevin Johnson's team says racism played a role in his prosecution

Missouri is one of 27 states where the death penalty is still legal. 123rf/alancotton © 123rf/alancotton Missouri is one of 27 states where the death penalty is still legal. 123rf/alancotton

The Missouri Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in Johnson's execution, with a 5-2 ruling late Monday night.

Former St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch and his office have handled five cases involving the deaths of law enforcement officers while McCulloch held the position, including Johnson's.

In the four cases involving Black defendants, McCulloch sought the death penalty. But in the one case where the defendant was white, he did not.

After Johnson's first trial resulted in a hung jury and a lesser sentence, Johnson's team believes his second trail jury was manipulated to result in a death sentence for Johnson. They claim racism played a role in Johnson's prosecution and McCulloch's practices need to be investigated further.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Crane countered at Monday's trial that "a fair jury determined [Johnson] deserves the death penalty."

After hearing the arguments, the court decided Johnson's execution would proceed.

They stated that Johnson "has no claims pending in any court and, therefore, cannot show a likelihood of success on such claims. Moreover, Johnson cannot rely on the Special Prosecutor’s likelihood of success on the claims the Special Prosecutor has raised in his motion to vacate Johnson’s conviction."

Kevin Johnson will face the death penalty as Mike Parson denies clemency

Groups against the death penalty will be organizing caravans and be "on watch" throughout Missouri on Tuesday. 123RF/sepavo © 123RF/sepavo Groups against the death penalty will be organizing caravans and be "on watch" throughout Missouri on Tuesday. 123RF/sepavo

Before the court denied Johnson's execution stay, Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced on Monday he would not grant Johnson clemency.

"The violent murder of any citizen, let alone a Missouri law enforcement officer, should be met only with the fullest punishment state law allows," he said.

"Through Mr. Johnson’s own heinous actions, he stole the life of Sergeant McEntee and left a family grieving, a wife widowed, and children fatherless. Clemency will not be granted."

Then 19 years old, Johnson assaulted and killed the 43-year-old officer, a father of three, blaming McEntee for the death of his younger brother "Bam Bam" earlier that day. Johnson's 12-year-old brother died after having a seizure while officers were looking for Kevin, whom they believed had violated probation. Later that evening, Johnson shot McEntee multiple times, according to reports.

Last week, a Missouri judge also denied the request of Johnson's 19-year-old daughter, Khorry Ramey, to witness his execution. Missouri law prohibits anyone under 21 from being present at an execution.

Missouri is one of 27 states where the death penalty is still legal.

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