Missouri Gov. Mike Parson confirmed on Monday that the State of Missouri will carry out the sentence of inmate Kevin Johnson on Tuesday, as ordered by the Supreme Court of Missouri. Photo by Missouri Department of Corrections/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The State of Missouri executed Kevin Johnson on Tuesday evening, after the Supreme Court rejected his last-minute request for a stay arguing his conviction and sentence for killing a police officer as a 19-year-old in 2005 were tainted by racial bias.
Johnson was pronounced dead at 7:40 p.m., Karen Pojmann, communications director for the Missouri Department of Corrections, confirmed to UPI in an emailed statement.
The 37-year-old father was executed by lethal injection at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Boone Terre, Mo.
"Tonight, the State of Missouri killed Kevin Johnson, an amazing father to his daughter, Khorry, and a completely rehabilitated man," Johnson's attorney Shawn Nolan said in a statement released after his client's sentence was performed.
"Make no mistake about it, Missouri capitally prosecuted, sentenced to death and killed Kevin because he is Black," he said. "The law is supposed to punish people for what they do, not who they are. Yet Missouri killed Kevin because of the color of his skin."
"Shame on all of them."
Johnson's execution was performed following a series of last-minute litigation from his counsel that argued their client's conviction and sentence were meted out unfairly because of his race.
Earlier Tuesday, Johnson's counsel had taken their complaint to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to intervene, arguing that executing Johnson would be unconstitutional.
The request was denied shortly before the scheduled 6 p.m. execution, with liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson in opposition.
The high court was petitioned after the Missouri Supreme Court late Monday turned aside Johnson's request for a stay in a 5-2 decision, stating it has heard and rejected the claims before.
Johnson's lawyers had accused the state of rushing through with his execution instead of investigating allegations that St. Louis County has a long-standing and pervasive racial bias in its handling of death-eligible prosecutions, including Johnson's case.
Johnson's attorneys pointed to a filing for a stay of execution by special prosecutor E.E. Keenan who found prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch disproportionately sought death penalty sentences for Black convicts.
Keenan was court appointed Oct. 12, and his report found that of five police officer killings, McCulloch pursued the death penalty in four of them where the defendants were Black. The sole case in which he did not pursue the death penalty was when the defendant was White, despite allegations that the convict's conduct "was more aggravated."
The filing states that St. Louis County's death-eligible prosecutions during McCulloch's tenure show the sentence was largely reserved for "defendants whose victims were White."
Keenan's request was denied by St. Louis Circuit Judge Mary Ott due to time constraints, which Johnson's legal team rebuked, stating in its filing that "[f]rom Johnson's perspective, one arm of the state is rushing to execute him in order to prevent another arm of the state from having its findings of racial bias and discrimination heard in court."
In its decision late Monday, the state's supreme court said Johnson cannot rely on the special prosecutor's claims "because the Special Prosecutor has no likelihood of succeeding" on them.
"Both claims the Special Prosecutor brings now are largely just re-packaged versions of claims Johnson has brought (and seen rejected) many times before," the court ruled. "Nothing in the Special Prosecutor's motion materially changes these claims or offers any greater likelihood of success than those claims have had in the past."
The ruling came hours after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson earlier Monday denied Johnson clemency, stating the death row inmate has received every protection afforded by the state and the U.S. Constitution, and his sentence for "his horrendous and callous crime" will stand.
"The State of Missouri will carry out Mr. Johnson's sentence according to the Court's order and deliver justice," Parson, a Republican, said in a statement. "The violent murder of any citizen, let alone a Missouri law enforcement officer should be met only with the fullest punishment state law allows.
"Clemency will not be granted."
Johnson was 19 years old the evening of July 5, 2005, when he killed Sgt. William McEntee of the Kirkwood, Mo., police department.
Police officers had arrived at a family residence in Meacham Park looking to serve Johnson an arrest warrant over allegations that he had violated his probation with misdemeanor assault.
As they attempted to execute the warrant, Johnson's 12-year-old brother, Joseph Long, suffered a seizure.
McEntee was among the officers who responded to the medical emergency. However, Long died from a pre-existing heart condition.
Johnson blamed the police, including McEntee, for his brother's death, accusing them of being indifferent to Long's suffering. Later that evening, Johnson saw McEntee, who was responding to another call in the area, and ambushed him.
McEntee was fatally shot seven times.
Johnson was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to death a year later.
He leaves behind 19-year-old daughter Corionsa "Khorry" Ramey.