ST. LOUIS (VFAB) — A 19-year-old woman is asking a federal court to allow her to watch her father’s death by injection, despite a Missouri law barring anyone under 21 from witnessing an execution.
Kevin Johnson faces execution Tuesday, Nov. 29, for the 2005 killing of a police officer whom he considered partly responsible for his 12-year-old brother’s death hours earlier.
Johnson has requested that his daughter, Khorry Ramey, attend the execution, and she wants to be there. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion with a federal court in Kansas City. The ACLU’s court filing said the law specifying a minimum age of 21 serves no safety purpose and violates Ramey’s Constitutional rights.
Ramey, in a court declaration, called Johnson “the most important person in my life.”
“If my father were dying in the hospital, I would sit by his bed holding his hand and praying for him until his death, both as a source of support for him, and as a support for me as a necessary part of my grieving process and for my peace of mind,” Ramey said.
Johnson, 37, has been incarcerated since he was 19 and his daughter was 2. The ACLU said the two have been able to built a bond through visits, phone calls, emails and letters.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s lawyers have filed appeals seeking to halt the execution. They don’t challenge his guilt but claim racism played a role in the decision to seek the death penalty and in the jury’s decision to sentence him to die. Johnson is Black and police officer William McEntee was white.
Johnson’s lawyers also have asked the courts to intervene for other reasons, including a history of mental illness and his age — he was 19 at the time of the crime. Courts have increasingly moved away from sentencing teen offenders to death since the Supreme Court in 2005 banned the execution of offenders who were younger than 18 at the time of their crime.
McEntee, a husband and father of three, was among the police officers sent to Johnson’s home in Kirkwood, Missouri, on July 5, 2005. Johnson was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend, and police believed he had violated probation.
Johnson saw officers arrive and told his 12-year-old brother, Joseph Long, to run to their grandmother’s house next door. Once there, the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and began having a seizure.
Johnson testified at trial that McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to aid his brother. The boy died a short time later at a hospital.
Later that evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to check on unrelated reports of fireworks being shot off. That’s when he encountered Johnson.
Johnson pulled a gun and shot the officer. He then approached the wounded officer and shot him again, killing him.
In a court filing last week to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office stated there were no grounds for court intervention.
“The surviving victims of Johnson’s crimes have waited long enough for justice, and every day longer that they must wait is a day they are denied the chance to finally make peace with their loss,” the state petition stated.
The execution would be the first of three in the coming months in Missouri. The state plans to execute convicted killers Scott McLaughlin on Jan. 3 and Leonard Taylor on Feb. 7.
Sixteen men have been executed in the U.S. this year. Alabama inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith had been scheduled to die last week for killing a preacher’s wife in a murder-for-hire plot, but the execution was halted because state officials couldn’t find a suitable vein to inject the lethal drugs.