JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV)— Governor Mike Parson on Monday confirmed that the state of Missouri will go forward with the scheduled execution of Missouri inmate Ernest Johnson, despite pleas from lawmakers, the Pope and others.
Johnson, 61, is convicted of killing three people during the robbery of a convenience store in 1994. He has admitted killing the store employees with the claw of a hammer, but his attorneys say that Johnson has the intellectual capacity of a child and that executing him would violate the U.S. Constitution.
They want his sentence to be commuted from death to life in prison.
“This is an incredibly sad case all the way around,” said Jeremy Weis, Johnson’s attorney. “It's not a question of whether Ernest will be punished or whether he will be let out on the streets. If we are successful, what will happen is that the court will recognize what we all know to be true is that he's intellectually disabled. The US Supreme Court has said that is a moral decision that these individuals who are like Ernest, are not as culpable. (He should) be allowed to spend the rest of his life in prison where he poses no threat.”
Johnson has had nine evaluations done, and eight of those showed his IQ is in the 70s. Weis said he functions at roughly the same age as a 10-year-old. Court documents show he struggled in school and flunked high school art because he couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler.
But the Missouri Supreme court has ruled there is a difference between the legal and medical definition of “intellectual disabilities.”
The most recent ruling points out Johnson counted and sorted money after that gas station robbery. He wore a face mask to hide his identity and hid the money in the air vent in an attempt to hide evidence.
But Jeremy Weis says executing Johnson is “just wrong.”
The last hope for Johnson is the U.S. Supreme Court.