The state of Missouri killed a prisoner by lethal injection on Tuesday, ending a lengthy fight by activists to spare the life of a man convicted in a brutal 1994 triple murder.
Ernest Johnson, 61, was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital at Bonne Terre prison and died at 6:11 p.m. after last-minute pleas for clemency from advocates including Pope Francis.
His death came hours after the US Supreme Court took a pass on a long-shot attempt by his lawyers to keep him alive.
A two-sentence order Tuesday afternoon from Justice Brett Kavanaugh denied a stay of execution for Johnson, who was the seventh person put to death in the US this year and the first who wasn’t a federal prisoner or executed in Texas.
Johnson’s attorneys had claimed that his execution was unconstitutional because he was “intellectually disabled.” He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and had lost brain tissue from a 2007 tumor-removal surgery.
Politicians and other advocates had also pushed Gov. Mike Parson to grant clemency to Johnson, who is black, on racial justice grounds.
The Pope joined the calls in the days before the execution. In a letter sent on his behalf by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, he pointed out Johnson’s “humanity and the sacredness of all human life.
“His Holiness wishes to place before you the simple fact of Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life,” the letter stated, according to Vatican News.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson decided to not grant clemency to Johnson despite pleas from activists.AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File
Parson, a Republican, announced Monday, on the eve of the execution, that the state would move forward with the sentence.
Johnson killed three workers at Casey’s General Store during a Feb. 12, 1994 robbery. He used a hammer and screwdriver to kill Mary Bratcher, 46, Mabel Scruggs, 57, and Fred Jones, 58, authorities said.
He was convicted three times for the crime after his first two sentences were thrown out on appeal.
Johnson had asked to be killed by a firing squad rather than through the state’s controversial method of lethal injection, which he feared would cause painful seizures.
The Supreme Court rejected his request.
His last meal was two bacon double cheeseburgers, two strawberry milkshakes and a large pizza, officials said.
With Post wires