Kevin Johnson: Missouri Executes Man Who Murdered Cop



CNN

[Breaking news update, published at 9:25 p.m. ET]

Kevin Johnson – who murdered a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer in 2005 but claimed racial bias in his prosecution – was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection. Johnson, 37, was pronounced dead at 7:40 p.m. CT. He did not make a final statement, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann.

[Previous story, published at 6:49 a.m. ET]

The Missouri Supreme Court denied a death row inmate’s request to stay his execution after hearing arguments that racial discrimination played a role in his prosecution for the murder of a police officer.

While Kevin Johnson is to be executed on Tuesday, he will appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, his lawyers announced Monday evening.

In separate proceedings, Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter had missed this month get a federal court to stop the state from executing Johnson unless she is allowed to appear as a witness; Missouri law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from witnessing the proceedings.

Next, the Missouri Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments for two stay motions: one by Johnson, who is black, and the other by a special prosecutor appointed at the request of the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office. , which secured Johnson’s conviction. for first degree murder and sentenced to death for the murder of Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee.

Both petitions sought a stay so that the racial bias allegations could be heard by the St. Louis County Circuit Court, which had previously denied a special prosecutor’s motion to overturn Johnson’s conviction, saying he didn’t. There wasn’t enough time before Johnson’s scheduled execution to hold a hearing. .

“There is simply nothing here that Johnson has not raised (and this Court has not dismissed) before and, even if there was, Johnson offers no basis for raising new versions. or repackaged of these often rejected claims for this purpose. date,” Monday’s ruling said.

Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, also on Monday denied a request for clemency from Johnson’s lawyers.

“Mr. Johnson has been granted every protection afforded by the constitutions of Missouri and the United States, and Mr. Johnson’s conviction and sentence remain for his horrific and ruthless crime,” Parson said in a statement. statement. “The State of Missouri will serve Mr. Johnson’s sentence as ordered by the Court and administer justice.”

A defense attorney for Johnson slammed Monday’s state Supreme Court ruling as a “complete disregard of the law in this case.”

“The prosecutor in this case had asked the court to stop the execution based on compelling evidence he uncovered last month establishing that Mr. Johnson was sentenced to death because he is black,” he said. attorney Shawn Nolan said in a statement. “The Missouri Supreme Court unwittingly refused to simply suspend Mr. Johnson’s execution date so that the prosecutor could present this evidence to the lower court, which declined to consider it at trial given the pressure of time.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Johnson, 37, have argued in court records that racial discrimination played a role in his prosecution, pointing in their stay motion to “longstanding and pervasive racial bias” in the “ handling of this case by St. Louis County prosecutors”. cases and other prosecutions subject to the death penalty, including bureau decisions regarding the offense to be charged, the sentence to seek, and jurors to be struck.

At their request, the prosecutor requested the death penalty against four of the five defendants tried for the murder of a policeman while on duty – all black, while the fifth was white. In the case of a white defendant, Johnson’s request says, the prosecutor invited defense attorneys to submit mitigating evidence that could persuade the office not to seek death — an opportunity not offered to black defendants.

Moreover, they pointed out a study by a political scientist from the University of North Carolina of 408 prosecutions for homicide causing death during the tenure of this prosecutor who found that the office widely sought the death penalty when victims were white.

Those claims appear backed by a special prosecutor, who was named to the case last month after the St. Louis district attorney’s office cited a conflict of interest. Special Prosecutor Edward EE Keenan also ‘determined that racist prosecution techniques infected Mr. Johnson’s conviction and death sentence,’ he wrote in his own stay application.

The special prosecutor found “clear and compelling evidence of racial bias on the part of the trial prosecutor,” he wrote in the request, citing evidence similar to that listed by Johnson’s attorneys in their stay request. .

The Missouri attorney general’s office opposed a stay, saying the claims were without merit. The special prosecutor’s “unproven allegations,” the AG’s office said in a brief, do not constitute a concession of wrongdoing by the state, which stands by the conviction.

“The McEntee family has waited long enough for justice,” the memoir said, “and every day they have to wait is a day they are denied the opportunity to finally make peace with their loss. ”

Bob McCulloch, the longtime St. Louis prosecutor who was fired in 2018 after 27 years, denied treating black and white defendants differently.

“Show me a similar case where the victim was black and I didn’t ask for death,” he said. quoted as saying by St. Louis Public Radio earlier this month on his mandate. “And then we have something to say. But this case simply does not exist.

Johnson was sentenced to death for the July 5, 2005 murder of McEntee, 43, who was called to Johnson’s neighborhood in response to a report of fireworks.

Earlier in the day, Johnson’s 12-year-old brother had died following a seizure at the family home, court records show. Police were there at the time of the seizure, seeking to serve a warrant on Johnson, then 19, for a probation violation.

Johnson blamed the police, including McEntee, for his brother’s death. And when McEntee returned to the neighborhood later that day, Johnson approached the sergeant’s patrol car, accused him of killing his brother and opened fire.

He left behind a wife, a daughter and two sons, according to the Officer Down memorial page.

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