Missouri Gov. Mike Parson denied clemency for death row inmate Ernest Johnson, ignoring pleas for mercy from federal lawmakers, thousands of petition signers, and the pope.
Johnson was convicted of killing three convenience store employees during a 1994 robbery. His death by injection is scheduled for 6 pm on Tuesday.
Johnson’s attorney, Jeremy Weis, argued that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits executing intellectually disabled people. Weis said multiple tests 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 percent of his brain tissue to the removal of a benign tumor.
A representative of Pope Francis wrote Parson a letter last week, saying the pope “wishes to place before you the simple fact of Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life.”
Courts reviewed Johnson’s case a few times. His second death sentence came in 2003 after the US Supreme Court found that executing the mentally ill was unconstitutionally cruel. Then, in 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court tossed out the previous death sentence and sentenced Johnson for a third time.
Weis on Monday requested a stay of execution from the US Supreme Court.