A federal judge has denied a 19-year-old woman’s request to be allowed to watch her father’s execution – because she is too young under Missouri law to witness the man being killed by lethal injection.
Kevin Johnson Jr., 37, is scheduled to be executed Tuesday for killing Kirkwood, Missouri police officer William McEntee in 2005. The appeals of the death row inmate’s lawyers are pending to spare his life at the 11th hour.
Johnson’s daughter, Khorry Ramey, had asked to attend the execution, and the American Civil Liberties Union had filed an emergency petition in federal court in Kansas City.
The ACLU court filings argued that the Missouri law barring persons under the age of 21 from attending an execution served no security purpose and violated Ramey’s constitutional rights.
But US District Judge Brian Wimes ruled late Friday that the law did not violate Ramey’s constitutional rights.
“I am heartbroken not to be with my father in his final moments,” Ramey said in a statement following the decision. “My father is the most important person in my life. He was there for me my whole life, even though he was locked up.”
Ramey was 2 years old when her father was on death row. Two years later, her mother was killed in front of her by her ex-boyfriend.
The father and daughter have remained close over the years, and in October Ramey took her newborn son Kaius to meet his grandfather in prison for the first time.
“My dad got to hold his grandson and we got to take photos together,” she wrote. “It was a beautiful but bittersweet moment for me because I realized that this might be the only time my dad would hold his grandson.”
While the judge acknowledged in his Friday ruling that the law would cause emotional harm to Ramey, he noted that that was only part of the court’s reasoning.
Ramey said she prayed that Gov. Michael Parson would grant clemency to her father.
But in an interview with KMOV last week, Parson, a Republican, signaled his intention to go ahead with Johnson’s execution as planned.
“You have a guy who went over there and killed a cop in cold blood with two shots in the head after he shot him multiple times,” the governor said. “It’s quite a vicious crime. Sometimes you have to draw the conclusions from it.”
Johnson’s defense team has appealed to stop the execution. They don’t question his guilt, but claim that pervasive racism played a role in the black man’s condemnation and sentencing.
The court filing said that without racist comments, Johnson could have been convicted of second-degree murder instead of first-degree by two white jurors at his trial and spared the death penalty.
Johnson’s attorneys determined that he was 19 at the time of the officer’s killing – the same age as his daughter is now – and had a history of mental illness, including depression, a suicide attempt at 14 and auditory hallucinations.
Since the Supreme Court banned the execution of offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the crime in 2005, courts have increasingly moved away from the death penalty for juvenile offenders.
In a court filing with the US Supreme Court, the Missouri Attorney’s Office said there was no reason for a court to intervene.
“The surviving victims of Johnson’s crimes have waited long enough for justice, and every day they wait is a day denied their chance to finally make peace with their loss,” the state statement said Petition.
On July 5, 2005, McEntee, a 43-year-old married father of three, was among police officers dispatched to Johnson’s home to serve an arrest warrant against him. Johnson was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend, and police believed he violated probation.
Johnson saw officers arrive and woke his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran next to their grandmother’s house. Once there, the boy – who suffered from a congenital heart defect – collapsed and had a seizure.
Johnson testified in court that McEntee prevented his mother from entering the home to help Bam Bam, who died in a hospital a short time later.
In an interview earlier this month with St. Louis Public Radio, Johnson recalled kicking his bedroom door off its hinges and then roaming the neighborhood angry at McEntee for restraining his mother as Bam Bam convulsed and screamed : “He killed my brother!”
Later that evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to look for independent reports of fireworks being fired. That’s when he met Johnson.
Johnson drew a gun and shot the officer twice, including once after he collapsed on the ground.
“I think as humans we tend to shift the blame,” Johnson said in the prison’s radio interview. “I don’t think[McEntee]did anything wrong that day that I could blame him for.”
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https://nypost.com/2022/11/28/judge-denies-19-year-olds-plea-to-watch-dads-execution/ The judge rejects the 19-year-old’s request to watch his father’s execution