N1-year-old Ernest Johnson was sentenced to death in 1994 for hammering three convenience stores in Missouri, Colombia. The governor of the state has rejected Pope Francis’ plea for mercy.
The Missouri Supreme Court rejected that argument Johnson is ineligible for the death penalty because of his intellectual disability. Johnson’s lawyer, Jeremy Weiss, noted that Johnson, who was tested with a baby’s IQ, was born with a fetal alcohol syndrome and lost a part of his brain in 2008 due to a tumor.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it would impose the death penalty on an intellectually disabled person in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment prohibition. States have some leeway in determining what is meant by “intellectual disability” with some restrictions. A 2014 Supreme Court rule established some basic tests instead of the need for a general IQ threshold.
Following the 2002 Supreme Court ruling, Johnson’s death sentence was initially overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court on the question of Johnson’s mental fitness, but a new sentencing hearing re-established the sentence in 200 sentences.
Vatican News It was reported on Friday that a personal representative of Pope Francis had written a letter from the pope to Missouri Government Michael Parsons (R) asking for an apology. The letter did not attempt to justify Johnson’s crime, but rather pointed to Johnson’s “questionable intellectual capacity.”
Archbishop Christoph Pierre wrote, “His Holiness seeks to present to you Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the holiness of all human life,” adding that the death penalty would be rejected as “a bold acknowledgment of the unworthy dignity of all human beings.” “
But Parsons will not be removed, and on Monday his office announced plans to execute him.
If Johnson is executed today, it will be the seventh execution in the United States in 2021. The other three executions took place in Texas.
Johnson’s only execution is scheduled for this year in Missouri. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, only three other states – Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama – have no death sentences for the rest of the year.
Assuming all these planned executions take place in 2021, including Johnson, America will execute 15 people this year. This would be two fewer executions than in 2020, the year in which more than half of the nationwide executions were administered by the federal prison system. The use of the death penalty in the United States has been declining, and for years. Virginia, which was once a top state when it comes to executing prisoners, stopped using the death penalty in February, making it the 23rd state to do so.
But this trend, and Missouri’s strict justice system in general, is leaving Johnson behind. While it is not surprising that Parsons actually refuses mercy for someone guilty, it is an irrevocable appeal to government authorities that should be discouraged if not necessary. We have not just become a country through the use of the death penalty.