Pope Calls For Clemency For Black Death Row Inmate
Last week, Pope Francis called on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to grant clemency to an inmate ahead of his execution scheduled for Tuesday (October 5).
Ernest Lee Johnson is on death row for the killing of three convenience store workers during a 1994 robbery. According to the The New York Times, the 61-year-old is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. local time Tuesday.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., wrote a letter to Parson on September 27 on behalf of the Pope, which emphasized Johnson’s “humanity and the sacredness of all human life.”
Vatican News reports Pope Francis’ plea comes two years after he changed the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty. The Pope called capital punishment “inadmissible” in all circumstances because it “attacks” human dignity.
According to the Times, Johnson’s lawyers have tried to get their client off of death row, arguing the execution of their client would be unlawful because he’s intellectually disabled.
A 2002 decision by the Supreme Court ruled executing people who are intellectually disabled is a breach of the Eighth’s Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
In August, the Missouri Supreme Court denied Johnson’s petition that argued he was wasn’t qualified for the death penalty because of his disabilities. It found that his ability to remember information related to the crime probe and that he was able to “plan, strategize, and problem solve — contrary to a finding of substantial subaverage intelligence.”
The Times reports the court also rejected his request for his execution to occur by a firing squad.
According to a statement by Parsons on Monday, the state of Missouri “will carry out the sentence of Mr. Ernest Lee Johnson” on Tuesday.