Kevin Johnson – who murdered a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer in 2005 but claimed racial bias in his prosecution – was executed on Tuesday night by lethal injection.
Johnson, 37, was pronounced dead at 7:40 pm CT. He did not give a final statement, according to Missouri Department of Rights spokeswoman Karen Pojmann.
The execution went ahead after the US Supreme Court rejected his request for a stay of execution. Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, according to the court’s website.
On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court denied Johnson’s request for a stay after hearing arguments that racial discrimination played a role in his prosecution.
Mary McEntee, widow of Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee, that her husband was killed on his hands and knees in front of people he dedicated his life to serving.
“When he left for work that day, we could not imagine that he would be killed by someone he gave his life to protect,” she said at a media briefing on Tuesday evening. “Bill didn’t get to fight for his life. He didn’t have the opportunity to be heard in front of a jury, to decide whether he would live or die.”
She also thanked the prosecutors who “worked hard and sometimes endlessly … for justice for the Bill.”
Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter was not a witness at the execution, having failed this month to get a federal court to prevent the state from executing her father unless she was allowed to be a witness. Missouri law prohibits people younger than 21 years of age from witnessing the event.
Pojmann said Johnson met his daughter earlier Tuesday.
On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in two requests for a stay: one by Johnson, who was Black, and the other by a special prosecutor appointed at the request of the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, who received Johnson’s conviction on. a charge of first degree murder and a death sentence for McEntee’s murder.
Both requests sought a stay so the St. Louis County Circuit Court could hear claims of racial bias, which previously rejected a special prosecutor’s bid to vacate Johnson’s conviction, saying there was not enough time before Johnson’s scheduled execution to hold a hearing. .
“There is nothing here that Johnson has not raised (and rejected by this Court) before and, even if he had, Johnson has no basis to raise any new or repackaged versions of these oft-rejected claims of late. date,” said Monday’s ruling.
The Gov. denied. Mike Parson, Republican, also on Monday a request for mercy from Johnson’s attorneys.
“Mr. Johnson has received every protection afforded by the Missouri and United States Constitutions, and Mr. Johnson’s conviction and sentence remain for his heinous and heinous crime,” Parson said in a statement. “The State of Missouri will sentence the Mr. Johnson according to the order of the Court and he will give justice.”
Johnson’s defense attorney dismissed Monday’s state Supreme Court ruling as “a complete disregard for the law in this case.”
“The Prosecutor in this case asked the Court to stay the execution based on the compelling evidence he revealed last month establishing that Mr. Johnson’s sentence to death was because he is Black,” said the lawyer Shawn Nolan in a statement. “The Missouri Supreme Court unconscionably refused to stay Mr. Johnson’s execution date so that the Prosecutor could present this evidence to the lower court, which refused to consider it in the first place because of the time pressure.”
Meanwhile, Johnson’s attorneys argued in court records that racial discrimination played a role in his prosecution, pointing out in their motion that “long-standing and pervasive racial bias” remains in the “handling of St. Louis County prosecutors.” Louis with this case and others. prosecutions eligible for death, including the office’s decisions about which offense to charge, what punishment to seek, and which jurors to strike.”
According to their request, the prosecuting attorney sought the death penalty against four of five defendants on trial for killing a police officer while in office – all Black, and the fifth White a person In the case of a White defendant, Johnson’s request says, the prosecutor invited defense attorneys to submit mitigating evidence that could persuade the office not to seek death — an opportunity not afforded to Black defendants.
In addition, they pointed to a study by a University of North Carolina political scientist of 408 death-eligible homicide prosecutions during this prosecutor’s tenure that found the office mostly sought the death penalty when the victims were White.
Those claims appear to be supported by a special prosecutor, who was appointed to the case last month after the St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney’s Office cited a conflict of interest. Similarly, the special prosecutor, Edward EE Keenan, “found that Mr. Johnson’s conviction and death sentence suffered from racist prosecution techniques,” he wrote in his own request for a stay.
The special prosecutor found “clear and convincing evidence of racial bias by the trial prosecutor,” he wrote in the request, citing evidence similar to that listed by Johnson’s attorneys in their request for a stay.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office argued against a stay, saying the claims were without merit. The special prosecutor’s “unproven claims,” the AG’s office said in the brief, do not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the state, which upholds the conviction.
“The McEntee family has waited long enough for justice,” the brief said, “and every day longer they must wait is a day they are denied the opportunity to finally make peace with their loss.”
Bob McCulloch, a longtime St. Louis prosecuting attorney who was voted out of office in 2018 after 27 years, denied that he treated Black and White defendants differently.
“Show me a case like it where the victim was Black and I didn’t ask for death,” he said on St. Louis Public Radio earlier this month about his time in office. “And then we have something to talk about. But that is not the case.”
Johnson was sentenced to death for the July 5, 2005, murder of McEntee, 43, who was called to Johnson’s neighborhood in response to a report of fireworks.
Earlier that day, Johnson’s 12-year-old brother died after having a seizure at their family home, according to court records. Police were there at the time of the seizure, trying to serve a warrant against Johnson, who was 19 at the time, for a probation violation.
Johnson blamed the police, including McEntee, for his brother’s death. And when McEntee returned to the neighborhood later that day, Johnson approached the sergeant’s patrol car, accused him of killing his brother and opened fire.
He left behind a wife, daughter and two sons, according to Officer Down Memorial Page.