Kevin Johnson’s legal team does not deny that Johnson killed Officer William McEntee, but argued in an appeal to Missouri Supreme Court that Johnson was sentenced to death partly because he is Black. The state Supreme Court, however, denied a stay in a 5-2 decision late Monday. Johnson’s lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also denied Johnson’s request for a stay.
Shawn Nolan, one of Johnson’s attorneys, stated in a statement that “The State of Missouri is poised for Kevin Johnson to be executed tonight, not because of his crimes but because he was Black.”
Gov. Mike Parson announced Monday that he would not grant pardon.
Parson, a Republican, and former county sheriff said that the violent murder of any Missouri citizen, let’s not forget a Missouri law enforcement officers, should only be punished with the maximum punishment allowed by law. “Through Mr. Johnson’s own heinous acts, he stole Sergeant McEntee’s life and left a grieving family, a widowed wife, and fatherless children. Johnson, 37, will be executed Tuesday night at Bonne Terre’s state prison. Johnson would be the 17th man executed in the United States and the second Missourian to die in 2022.
McEntee (43), was a Kirkwood police officer, a suburb of St. Louis. He was a 20 year veteran. McEntee, a father of three, was one of the officers who were sent to Johnson’s house on July 5, 2005 to serve a warrant. Johnson was currently on probation for assaulting his girlfriend and police believe he violated his probation.
Johnson was awakened by officers and ran to the house next door. The boy, who had a congenital heart defect and was suffering from seizures, began to have seizures once he got there.
Johnson testified that McEntee prevented his mother from entering his house in order to help his brother who later died at a hospital.
McEntee went back to the area that evening to verify unrelated reports about fireworks being set off. According to a Missouri attorney general’s court filing, McEntee was inside his car interviewing three children, when Johnson shot him through the passenger-side window. Johnson also struck McEntee’s head, leg, and torso. Johnson got in the car and grabbed McEntee’s gun.
According to court filings, Johnson was seen walking down the street telling his mother McEntee had “let my brother go” and that McEntee needed to “see what it feels like for him to die.” Johnson then returned to the scene of the shooting and found McEntee still alive on his knees next to the patrol car. Johnson shot McEntee in his head and back, killing him.
Johnson’s lawyers had previously requested the courts to intervene because Johnson has a history with mental illness and was 19 at the time of his crime. Since 2005, when the Supreme Court banned executions of juvenile offenders younger than 18, courts have been increasingly reluctant to sentence teen offenders death row.
However, appeals have been more focused on allegations of racial bias. Mary Elizabeth Ott, a St. Louis Circuit Judge, appointed an extra prosecutor to investigate the case. E.E. Keenan filed an earlier motion to vacate the death penalty. He argued that race was a “decisive element” in the death sentence.
Ott refused to abrogate the death penalty.
In a hearing Monday, Keenan informed the state Supreme Court that Bob McCulloch, the former St. Louis County Prosecutor, handled five cases concerning the deaths of officers in his 28-year tenure. McCulloch was seeking the death penalty in four cases involving Black defendants but not in one where the defendant is white, Keenan stated.
Andrew Crane, Assistant Attorney General, responded that McCulloch was “justly convicted” and therefore he should be executed. McCulloch doesn’t have a phone number listed so he could not be reached.
Khorry Ramey (19 years old) was Johnson’s daughter. She had wanted to be there for the execution but a state law prohibited anyone younger than 21 from being present. Ramey has not had the courts step in.
In 1999, the United States saw 98 executions. However, this number has fallen dramatically in recent years. Two executions are already scheduled in Missouri for 2023. Scott McLaughlin, the convict killer, is due to die Jan. 3; Leonard Taylor, the convicted killer is scheduled for execution Feb. 7.