Kevin Johnson, 37, was executed Tuesday night at Bonne Terre State Prison.
BONNE TERRE, Mo. – A Missouri inmate convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis-area police officer he blamed for the death of his younger brother was executed on Tuesday barring intervention of last minute.
Kevin Johnson’s legal team does not deny he killed Officer William McEntee in 2005, but argued in an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court that he was sentenced to death in part because he was black. But in a 5-2 decision Monday night, the state Supreme Court denied a stay. Johnson’s attorneys responded by appealing to the United States Supreme Court.
“The State of Missouri is set to execute Kevin Johnson tonight, not for his crimes, but because he is black,” one of his attorneys, Shawn Nolan, said in a statement.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson said in a statement late Tuesday:
“Today the State of Missouri executed Kevin Johnson’s sentence, as ordered by the Missouri Supreme Court. Mr. Johnson was found guilty and sentenced to death for the 2005 murder of Sgt. Bill McEntee “Mr. Johnson’s claims have been considered in state and federal courts, and no court has overturned his conviction or sentence. We hope this brings some closure to Sgt. McEntee’s loved ones who continue to anguish without him.
Johnson, 37, was executed Tuesday night at Bonne Terre State Prison. He would be the second Missouri man to be put to death in 2022 and the 17th nationally.
McEntee, 43, was a 20-year veteran of the police department in Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis. The father-of-three was among 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 believe he violated probation.
Johnson saw officers arrive and woke up his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran to a nearby house. Once there, the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and began having a seizure.
Johnson testified at trial that McEntee prevented his mother from entering the house to help his brother, who died shortly afterwards in a hospital.
That same evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to verify unrelated reports of fireworks being set off. A court filing from the Missouri attorney general’s office said McEntee was in his car interrogating three children when Johnson shot him through the open passenger-side window, hitting the man’s leg, head and torso. ‘officer. Johnson then got into the car and took McEntee’s gun.
The court filing says Johnson walked down the street and told his mother that McEntee was “letting my brother die” and “needed to see what it’s like to die.” Although she told him, “That’s not true,” Johnson returned to the filming location and found McEntee alive, kneeling by the patrol car. Johnson shot McEntee in the back and in the head, killing him.
Johnson’s lawyers have previously asked the courts to intervene on other grounds, including a history of mental illness and his age – 19 – at the time of the crime. Courts have increasingly moved away from sentencing teenage 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 the calls have focused more broadly on alleged racial bias. In October, St. Louis Circuit Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott appointed a special prosecutor to review the case. Special Prosecutor EE Keenan filed a motion earlier this month to overturn the death sentence, saying race played a “decisive factor” in the death sentence.
Ott refused to overturn the death sentence.
Keenan told the state Supreme Court during a Monday hearing that former St. Louis County District Attorney Bob McCulloch’s office handled five cases involving police deaths in his 28 years. of mandate. McCulloch sought the death penalty in all four cases involving black defendants, but did not seek death in the one case where the defendant was white, Keenan said.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Crane responded that “a fair jury determined he deserved the death penalty.”
McCulloch does not have a phone number listed and could not be reached for comment.
Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter, Khorry Ramey, had sought to witness the execution, but state law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from observing the process. The courts declined to intervene on Ramey’s behalf.
On the day of the execution, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty held rallies across the state.
The day before, lawyers also gathered on the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court.
One such person was the Reverend Darryl Gray.
Gray is Johnson’s spiritual advisor.
Gray spoke of Johnson’s baptism days before his execution.
“We walked into the chaplain’s office and there was a big tub. The guards stayed; the deputy warrant stayed. They filmed it for the other inmates and when Kevin got into the water, you can see the calmness of his body. Kevin struggled with his faith. Kevin realized that fractured faith is better than no faith at all and I believe that’s what got him through it “said Gray.
He said that in 40 years of ministry and hundreds of baptisms, this is one he will never forget.
The United States saw 98 executions in 1999, but the number has dropped dramatically in recent years. Missouri already has two scheduled for early 2023. Convicted killer Scott McLaughlin is scheduled to die Jan. 3, and convicted killer Leonard Taylor is scheduled to be executed Feb. 7.