A Missouri man who killed a police officer he blamed for his brother’s death in what friends have described as a ‘crime of passion’ was executed on Tuesday after refusing a final statement and meal. Kevin Johnson (pictured), 37, died by lethal injection of pentobarbital at the state prison in Bonne Terre for the 2005 murder of Kirkwood Police Officer William McEntee, a crime which he committed at age 19.
The 37-year-old inmate did not make a final statement and refused his last meal according to reports but spoke with his spiritual advisor, Reverend Darryl Gray in the moments prior to his execution.
The Reverend (pictured) read from the Bible as the drug worked its way through Johnson’s system and within seconds Johnson ceased moving as the reverend continued to pray, patting Johnson’s shoulder, the New York Post reported. Speaking to the publication, Gray said that Johnson had accepted his fate in his final moments. ‘He apologized again, he apologized to the victim’s family, he apologized to his family,’ Gray said.
‘He said he was looking forward to seeing his baby brother and he said he was ready.’ Dailymail.com tried contacting Gray, who after the execution, said he needed time to regroup. ‘I love, love, Kevin Johnson, he didn’t deserve to die. I’m gonna sign off social media for a little while, while I regroup. Love you!,’ he tweeted. Though Gray, a leading St. Louis racial injustice activist, was present for Johnson’s last moments, the death row inmate’s daughter was noticeably absent.
Corionsa Ramey (pictured), 19, Johnson’s daughter filed a petition last week with the help of the ACLU arguing the Missouri law was a breach of her First and 14th Amendment rights. But a federal judge has disallowed Ramey from watching the execution of her father Kevin Johnson, 37, and said that they are not treating her ‘less favorably than similarly situated people.’
Judge Brian C. Wimes said in the judgement that states are able to ‘discriminate on the basis of age’ without offending the Fourteenth Amendment if the age classification is ‘rational.’ Wimes reiterated the state’s initial response to her petition in which it said it sought to prevent ‘young adults’ from ‘witnessing death’ and feared that ‘young adults may be more inclined to act out in ways that are disruptive to the proceedings.’ They said that could result in a security threat during the execution.
The judge also wrote in the order that he was not satisfied that she would be able to witness the execution without it causing her ‘irreparable harm.’ In an affidavit submitted to the court last Monday, Ramey cited the close relationship she developed with her father, who has been in prison since she was two. She also said that not only did she lose her father to prison, she also witnessed the murder of her mother just two years later, aged only four. Ramey expressed sorrow at the decision and appealed to the Missouri governor for clemency for her father. ‘I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments,’ she said in an ACLU press release.
‘My dad is the most important person in my life. He has been there for me my whole life, even though he’s been incarcerated. He is a good father, the only parent I have left. He has worked very hard to rehabilitate himself in prison. I pray that Governor Parson will give my dad clemency.’ ‘We are extremely disappointed in the decision upholding this irrational and illogical law, which only serves to gratuitously punish Ms. Ramey,’ said Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project.
‘Compounding her pain and grief by barring her from being with her father will do nothing to provide closure or healing to anyone else. The State of Missouri can still do right by Ms. Ramey if the Governor grants her father clemency. If 19 is not old enough to witness an execution, then the state should spare Mr. Johnson’s life for what he did when he was 19,’ she added.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union filed the emergency motion arguing that laws prohibiting people under 21 from watching executions not only serve no purpose but also violate constitutional rights. ‘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 in a court document. Johnson was executed on November 29 for killing McEntee in 2005. Pictured: U.S. district court judge Brian C. Wimes — who denied Ramey access.
Sergeant William McEntee (pictured), a husband and father of three, was 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 awoke his 12-year-old brother, Joseph ‘Bam Bam’ Long, who ran next door to their grandmother’s house. At her house the boy suffered from a congenital heart defect causing him to have a seizure and die shortly after in hospital. Johnson testified at trial that McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to help his dying brother. Later that evening in 2005, McEntee returned to the neighborhood in response to unrelated reports of fireworks being fired. He then bumped into Johnson who pulled out a gun and shot McEntee. He then approached the wounded, kneeling officer and shot him again, killing him.
Sparkle Haney (pictured), 41, a former correctional worker and friend of Johnson told Dailymail.com that she believed that if ‘one officer had helped’ the incident may have ended differently. ‘[Johnson told me] no one aided [his brother], they just stepped over him and he [Johnson] could see them stepping over his brother, while he was dying,’ she said. ‘I think that if one person stopped and just looked at his brother or did something I think that could have made a big difference.’ Haney also claimed that in the days leading up to his execution Johnson had told her on several occasions that his execution was having an adverse affect on his mental health. ‘I mean, it’s eating him up on the inside,’ she told Dailymail.com prior to the execution. ‘He’s not sleeping because he feels like if he sleeps then he’s missing out on the final seconds and minutes and hours of his life.’
The 41-year-old was contacted by Dailymail.com but declined to comment following Johnson’s execution. Meanwhile, Johnson’s lawyers filed different appeals seeking to halt the execution. Although they don’t challenge that Johnson was guilty, they claimed that racism played a role in the jury’s decision to give him the death penalty, since McEntee was white.
Johnson’s (pictured in court) lawyers also asked the courts to intervene for other reasons, including a history of mental illness and his age at the time of the killing, which was 19. Courts have increasingly stopped sentencing teenagers to death since the Supreme Court in 2005 banned the execution of defendants who were younger than 18 at the time of their crime. 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 said. According to the St Louis Post Dispatch, ahead of the execution, supporters of clemency for Johnson held protests in Jefferson City, Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Bonne Terre. About 30 people who gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City chanted and held signs, including a big red banner that said ‘Stop State Murder,’ as Capitol police stood at the mansion’s driveway gate (pictured).
In downtown St. Louis, a group of about 30 gathered on Tuesday afternoon in front of the Civil Courts Building to protest (pictured). And in Kansas City, about 30 people gathered at the intersection at 39th and Troost to protest the execution. Meanwhile, outside of the prison in Bonne Terre, a crowd of more than 50 people gathered to protest the execution. Johnson was the second man sentenced to death in Missouri in 2022, but the first of three in the coming months. The state plans to execute convicted killers Scott McLaughlin on January 3 and Leonard Taylor on February 7. Missouri has seen an uptick in death penalty rates, the highest number of executions still recorded in 2015, in which 10 people died. Sixteen men have been executed in the U.S. this year.
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