Kevin Johnson execution: 19-year-old asks court to let her watch father’s death by injection in Missouri

A 19-year-old woman is asking a federal court to let her watch her father’s death by injection, despite a Missouri law that prohibits anyone under 21 from witnessing an execution.

Kevin Johnson faces the death penalty on Nov. 29 for the 2005 killing of Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer William McEntee. Johnson’s lawyers are considering appeals aimed at saving his life.

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Kevin Johnson listens as St. Louis County District Attorney Robert P. McCulloch describes to the jury his theory of how Johnson shot Kirkwood police officer William McEntee during closing arguments in Johnson’s trial on April 2, 2007, in Clayton, Mo.

F. Brian Ferguson / AP


Meanwhile, Johnson has requested that his daughter, Horrie Ramey, attend the execution, and she wants to be there. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion in federal court in Kansas City. The ACLU’s court filing said the law, which bars anyone under 21 from seeing the death penalty, serves no safety purpose and violates Ramey’s constitutional rights.

Ramey called Johnson “the most important person in my life” in a court statement.

“If my father was dying in the hospital, I would sit by his bedside holding his hand and pray for him until he died, both as a source of support for him and as a support for me as a necessary part of my grieving process and my peace of mind,” Ramey said.

Johnson, now 37, has been incarcerated since Ramey was 2 years old. The ACLU said the two were able to connect through visits, phone calls, emails and letters. Last month, she brought her newborn son to the prison to meet his grandfather.

“I have a son who needs a daddy, and I’m a daughter who needs her daddy,” Ramey said, according to CBS affiliate KMOV.

Anthony Rothert, an attorney for the ACLU, said Ramey’s failure to attend the execution would cause her “irreparable harm.”

Michelle Smith, spokeswoman for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told KMOV that if a person could be sentenced to death at age 19, a family member has the right to be a witness when the state executes her father.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s attorneys have filed appeals seeking to stay the execution. They do not dispute his guilt, but say racism played a role in the decision to seek the death penalty and in the jury’s decision to sentence him to death. Johnson is Black and McEntee was White.

Johnson’s lawyers have asked the courts to intervene on other grounds, including his history of mental illness and his age – he was 19 at the time of the crime. Since the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for offenders who were under 18 at the time of the crime in 2005, courts have increasingly moved away from imposing the death penalty on juvenile offenders.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Supreme Court last week, the Missouri attorney general’s office said there was no basis for judicial intervention.

“Surviving victims of Johnson’s crimes have waited long enough for justice, and every longer day they have to wait is a day they are denied the opportunity to finally come to terms with their loss,” the state’s petition said.

McEntee, a husband and father of three, was among the officers sent to Johnson’s home on July 5, 2005, to serve a warrant for his arrest. Johnson was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend and police believed he had violated his probation.

Johnson saw officers arrive and woke up his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who was running next door to their grandmother’s house. Once there, a boy with a congenital heart defect collapsed and started convulsing.

Johnson testified in court that McEntee prevented his mother from entering the house to help his brother, who died a short time later at the hospital.

Later that evening, McEntee returned to the area to investigate unrelated reports of fireworks. That’s when he ran into Johnson.

Johnson pulled a gun and shot the officer. He then walked up to the wounded, kneeling officer and shot him again, killing him.

OFFICIALS BEBES
Hundreds of police officers greet Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee as his casket is carried to the grave site Saturday, July 9, 2005, in St. Louis. McEntee was shot and killed in the line of duty on July 5, 2005.

TOM GANNAM / AP


The execution will be the first of three in the coming months in Missouri. The state plans to execute convicted murderers Scott McLaughlin on Jan. 3 and Leonard Taylor on Feb. 7.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Missouri has 20 inmates on death row.

Sixteen men have been executed in the United States this year. Alabama inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith was scheduled to die Thursday for the murder of a preacher’s wife, but the execution was suspended because government officials could not find a suitable vein to inject the lethal drug.

Missouri State Enforcement
Kevin Johnson is seen in this undated photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections.

/ AP




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