A 19-year-old woman in Missouri has asked a federal court for permission to watch her father receive a lethal injection despite a state law preventing under 21s from witnessing executions.
Kevin Johnson, 37, was sentenced to death for killing a cop in St. Louis in 2005 and is due to be executed on November 29. He fatally shot Missouri police officer William McEntee in a fit of rage after the death of his 12-year-old brother hours earlier.
In her appeal to the federal court in Kansas City his daughter Corionsa ‘Khorry’ Ramey, 19, described Johnson as ‘the most important person in my life’.
In an affidavit submitted to the court on Monday Ramey states that not only did she lose her father to prison at the age of two, she also witnessed the murder of her mother just two years later, aged four.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion arguing that laws prohibiting people under 21 from watching executions not only serve no purpose but also violate constitutional rights.
‘If my father were dying in the hospital, I would sit by his bed holding his hand and praying for him until his death, both as a source of support for him, and as a support for me as a necessary part of my grieving process and for my peace of mind,’ Ramey said in a court document.
ACLU attorney Anthony Rothert said if Ramey (pictured) is prevented from attending the execution it will cause her ‘irreparable harm’
A photo provided by the ACLU shows Corionsa ‘Khorry’ Ramey (left), 19, introducing her newborn son to her father Kevin Johnson (right) in prison last month
Ramey (right) has appealed to a federal court in Kansas City for permission to view the execution of her father Johnson (left) by lethal injection
Johnson at the Clayton Courthouse in April 2007 moments after the jury in his trial were unable to reach a unanimous decision, resulting in a mistrial
Kevin Johnson faces execution on November 29 for killing Kirkwood police officer McEntee in 2005.
McEntee, a husband and father of three, was 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 arrive and awoke his 12-year-old brother, Joseph ‘Bam Bam’ Long, who ran next door to their grandmother’s house.
At her house the boy suffered from a congenital heart defect causing him to have a seizure and die shortly after in hospital.
Johnson testified at trial that McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to help his dying brother.
Later that evening in 2005, McEntee returned to the neighborhood in response to unrelated reports of fireworks being fired. He then bumped into Johnson.
Johnson pulled a gun and shot McEntee. He then approached the wounded, kneeling officer and shot him again, killing him.
Kevin Johnson faces execution November 29 for killing Kirkwood police officer McEntee in 2005
Ramey, 19, was two when her father was imprisoned for the fatal shooting and at the age of four witnessed her mother being murdered by an ex-boyfriend
Missouri police officer William McEntee was fatally shot by Kevin Johnson in 2005
Johnson, now 37, has been incarcerated since Ramey was two. The ACLU said the father and daughter were able to build a bond through visits, phone calls, emails and letters.
Last month, she brought her newborn son to the prison to meet his grandfather.
ACLU attorney Anthony Rothert said if Ramey is prevented from attending the execution it will cause her ‘irreparable harm’.
An ACLU filing argues that the state law violates Ramey’s right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and her First Amendment right of association.
It says that the 21 age threshold is not reasonable and does not serve any safety purpose.
It also argues that in federal executions and in the overwhelming majority of death penalty states there is no age requirement for family of the sentenced inmate to witness an execution, or the minimum age is 18.
Johnson murdered McEntee in a fit of rage hours after the death of his 12-year-old brother
According to the ACLU, Ramey (left) and Johnson (right) were able to build a bond with each other through visits, phone calls, emails and letters (photo taken in prison)
Meanwhile, Johnson’s lawyers have filed different appeals seeking to halt the execution.
Although they don’t challenge that he is guilty they claim racism played a role in the jury’s decision to give him the death penalty since McEntee was white.
Johnson’s lawyers also have asked the courts to intervene for other reasons, including a history of mental illness and his age. Johnson was 19 at the time of the killing.
Courts have increasingly stopped sentencing teenagers to death since the Supreme Court in 2005 banned the execution of defendants who were younger than 18 at the time of their crime.
In a court filing last week to the US Supreme Court, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office stated there were no grounds for court intervention.
‘The surviving victims of Johnson’s crimes have waited long enough for justice, and every day longer that they must wait is a day they are denied the chance to finally make peace with their loss,’ the state petition said.
Johnson waits in the Clayton Courthouse for his trial to begin in March 2007
Johnson’s execution would be the first of three in the coming months in Missouri (photo taken in prison)
Johnson’s execution would be the first of three in the coming months in Missouri.
The state plans to execute convicted killers Scott McLaughlin on January 3 and Leonard Taylor on February 7.
Sixteen men have been executed in the US this year.
Alabama inmate Kenneth Eugene Smith had been scheduled to die on Thursday for killing a preacher’s wife.
The execution was halted because prison staff couldn’t find a suitable vein to inject the lethal drugs.
On Monday the Alabama governor Kay Ivey paused in executions and ordered a ‘top-to-bottom’ review of the state’s capital punishment system.