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Cori Bush demands death row inmate is spared because it perpetuates cycle of ‘slavery and lynching’


Cori Bush has demanded Missouri Governor Mike Parson grant a last-minute clemency to a death row inmate who killed three people in a 1994 convenience store robbery, saying that executions perpetuates the cycle of slavery and lynching.

On Friday, Bush and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II petitioned for Parson (R) to halt the execution of 61-year-old Ernest Lee Johnson. 

Johnson, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre, was sentenced to death for killing three people while robbing a Columbia, Missouri convenience store in 1994. 

He admitted to killing three workers at a Casey’s General Store in Columbia on Feb. 12, 1994 – manager Mary Bratcher, 46, and employees Mabel Scruggs, 57, and Fred Jones, 58. 

In their petition demanding clemency, Bush and Cleaver said: ‘As lawmakers, we are committed to building a Missouri that is a beacon of justice, and who strive daily to represent the needs and demands of Missourians across the state. It is for this reason we urge you to immediately commute the sentence of Mr. Johnson.

‘The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice. They are about who has institutional power and who doesn’t. Like slavery and lynching did before it, the death penalty perpetuates cycles of trauma, violence and state-sanctioned murder in Black and brown communitie. 

Johnson, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre, was sentenced to death for killing three people while robbing a Columbia, Missouri convenience store in 1994. Pictured: Jonson in 2014

On Friday, Reps. Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver II petitioned for Missouri Gov. Parson (R) to halt the execution of 61-year-old Ernest Lee Johnson (pictured). Johnson, who is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre, was sentenced to death for killing three people while robbing a Columbia, Missouri convenience store in 1994

In this photo, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., testifies about making her decision to have an abortion after being raped

In this photo, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., testifies about making her decision to have an abortion after being raped

In this photo First lady Jill Biden is greeted by Kansas City Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) as she arrives at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri

In this photo First lady Jill Biden is greeted by Kansas City Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) as she arrives at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri

During the 1994 convenience store robbery, Johnson shot and attacked his victims with a claw hammer. One was also stabbed in the hand with a screwdriver.  

Officers found a bag containing $443, coin wrappers, partially burned checks and tennis shoes matching bloody shoe prints found inside the store at Johnson’s girlfriend’s house.

Parson, a Republican, has been considering whether to reduce the 61-year-old Johnson’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Johnson´s attorney, Jeremy Weis, has said executing him would violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits executing intellectually disabled people. 

'The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice. They are about who has institutional power and who doesn't,' Bush and Cleaver write in the petition

‘The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice. They are about who has institutional power and who doesn’t,’ Bush and Cleaver write in the petition

Bush wrote that Johnson should be spared because his sentence perpetuates a cycle of 'slavery and lynching'

Bush wrote that Johnson should be spared because his sentence perpetuates a cycle of ‘slavery and lynching’

Weis said multiple IQ tests and other exams have shown that Johnson has the intellectual capacity of a child. He also was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and in 2008, he lost about 20% of his brain tissue to the removal of a benign tumor. 

The Missouri Supreme Court in August refused to halt the execution, and on Friday declined to take the case up again.  

Johnson previously asked that his execution be carried out by firing squad, but Missouri doesn’t allow that method of execution. 

His lawyers argued that Missouri’s lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, could trigger seizures due to the lost brain tissue.

Johnson was sentenced to death in his first trial and two other times. The second death sentence, in 2003, came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing the mentally ill was unconstitutionally cruel.  

If the execution takes place as scheduled, it would be the seventh in the U.S. this year but the first not involving either a federal inmate or a prisoner in Texas.

The peak year for modern executions was 1999, when there were 98 across the U.S. That number had gradually declined and just 17 people were executed last year – 10 involving federal prisoners, three in Texas and one each in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Missouri, according to a database compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center.



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