On October 5 Missouri executed Ernest Johnson — despite claims by death penalty opponents and Johnson’s attorney that killing him violated the Constitution because he had intellectual disabilities.
In one court filing, Johnson’s legal team said IQ tests had indicated he had the intellectual capacity of a child, according to an NBC News article. However, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson denied Johnson’s request for clemency and said the state would carry out the execution.
The execution was Missouri’s first since May 2020, as the pandemic put a hold on Death Chamber operations.
“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,” said Parson.
On Feb. 12, 1994, in a closing-time robbery at Casey’s General Store in Columbia, Johnson, 61, used a claw hammer to fatally bludgeon manager Mary Bratcher, 46, and employees Mabel Scruggs, 57, and Fred Jones, 58.
Some of the family members of the victims were in favor of putting Johnson to death. Bratcher’s son, Rob, said, “I don’t want to sound inhumane, but if there’s any pain, so be it.”
Johnson was lethally injected at the state prison in Bonne Terre, according to the NBC article. He was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m. local time, a Missouri state Department of Corrections spokesperson said.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up Johnson’s case when his attorney argued that brain damage put him at risk of severe and painful seizures if executed by lethal injection.
In August, Johnson asked to be executed by firing squad, but the Missouri Supreme Court denied that also.
“None of this excuses what Johnson did,” said former Governor Bob Holden. “But if our state is to be guided by the rule of law, we must temper our understandable anger with reason and compassion for the most vulnerable among us — including Ernest Johnson.”