On Tuesday night, the state of Missouri put Ernest Johnson to death despite questions over his intellectual disability.
Johnson, who was 61, was convicted of killing Mary Bratcher, Mabel Scruggs and Fred Jones in 1994 during the robbery of a convenience store. Johnson’s lawyers have argued that killing Johnson, whose IQ tests indicated that he had the intellectual capacity of a child, would violate the Constitution, per a 2002 ruling that forbids the execution of the intellectually disabled. His lawyers said that there would be “no tangible harm” to staying Johnson’s execution while the legal question was sorted out, but Missouri Governor Mike Parson denied Johnson clemency and the Supreme Court denied a last minute plea for a stay of execution.
The execution was carried out despite calls for mercy from a host of high profile supporters like Rep. Cori Bush, former Missouri Governor Bob Holden and even Pope Francis. “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,” Holden wrote in the Kansas City Star.
On Monday, Johnson wrote his final statement, expressing remorse for his crimes, gratitude for his supporters and belief that he would go to Heaven when he died. It is transcribed in unedited form below
I am sorry and I have remorse for what I do. I want to say that I love my family and friends. I am thankful of all that my lawer has done for me. They made me feel as if I was family to them. I love them all, for all the people that has prayed for me. I thank them from the bottom of my. I love the Lord with all my heart and soul. If I am executed I no where I am going to heaven. Becaus I ask him to forgive me God everone. Whit respect Ernest L Johnson
DOC has made available a last statement from Ernest Johnson, dated yesterday. pic.twitter.com/yQdbMFDUNm
— Jeanne Kuang (@JeanneKuang) October 5, 2021
Sister Helen Prejean, the death penalty abolitionist who was played by Susan Sarandon in the 1995 movie Dead Man Walking, wrote that “the execution of Ernest Johnson is unconstitutional under all existing legal precedents. He has the mental capacity of a 9-year-old child and is missing 20% of his brain mass. The Supreme Court’s failure to do anything to stop this is a moral failing of the highest order.”