Missouri prepares to execute man for officer’s murder in 2005

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A Missouri inmate convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis police officer whom he blamed for the death of his younger brother was due to be executed Tuesday, though his lawyers are trying to stop the lethal injection. to make.

Kevin Johnson’s legal team does not deny killing police officer William McEntee in 2005, but is appealing to the Missouri Supreme Court that he was sentenced to death in part because he is black. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for a stay last week, and Governor Mike Parson announced Monday that he would not grant clemency.

“The violent murder of a civilian, let alone a law enforcement officer in Missouri, should be punishable only with the harshest penalties allowed by state law,” Parson, a Republican and former county sheriff, said in a statement. Johnson’s own heinous actions stole Sergeant McEntee’s life and left a grieving family, wife widowed and children fatherless. No leniency is granted.”

Johnson, 37, is due to be executed Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He would be the second Missouri man to be executed in 2022 and the 17th nationally.

McEntee, 43, was a 20-year veteran of the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood. The father of three was one of the officers 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 approaching and woke up his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran to a house next door. Once there, the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and had a seizure.

Johnson testified at trial that McEntee stopped his mother from entering the house to help his brother, who died in a hospital a short time later.

That same night, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to look for unrelated reports of fireworks being set off. A lawsuit from the Missouri attorney general’s office said McEntee was in his car questioning three children when Johnson shot him through the open passenger-side window, hitting the officer’s leg, head and torso. Johnson then got in the car and took McEntee’s gun.

According to the court, Johnson walked down the street and told his mother that McEntee “let my brother die” and “need to see what it feels like to die.” Although she told him, “That’s not true,” Johnson returned to the scene of the shooting and found McEntee alive, on his knees by the patrol car. Johnson shot McEntee in the back and in the head, killing him.

Johnson’s lawyers have previously asked the court to intervene for other reasons, including a history of mental illness and his age – 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 under 18 at the time of their crime.

But a broader focus of appeals dealt with alleged racial prejudice. In October, St. Louis circuit judge Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott appointed a special prosecutor to review the case. Special Prosecutor EE Keenan filed a motion to have the death sentence overturned earlier this month, stating that race played a “decisive factor” in the death sentence.

Ott refused to set aside the death penalty. The Missouri Supreme Court on Monday convened an emergency hearing to consider the request.

Keenan’ told the state Supreme Court that the office of former St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has heard five cases involving the deaths of police officers during his 28 years in office. McCulloch sought the death penalty in the four cases involving black defendants, but did not seek the death penalty in the one case in which the defendant was white, the filing said.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Crane responded that “a fair jury has determined he deserves the death penalty.”

McCulloch did not list a phone number and could not be reached for comment.

Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter, Khorry Ramey, had attempted to witness the execution, but a state law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from observing the trial. Courts have refused to intervene on Ramey’s behalf.

In the US, 98 executions were carried out in 1999, but the number has fallen dramatically in recent years. Missouri already has two scheduled for early 2023. Convicted murderer Scott McLaughlin is scheduled to die on January 3, and convicted murderer Leonard Taylor is scheduled to be executed on February 7.

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