On October 5, Ernest Johnson was put to death by the state of Missouri after a number of high-profile figures asked Governor Mike Parson to halt his execution.
According to the Associated Press, Johnson's execution was triggered by events that took place on February 12,1994. Court records allege Johnson stole a gun that belonged to his girlfriend's son and planned to rob a convenience store. In a 2004 interview, Johnson said that he was under the influence of cocaine when he entered the store. While executing the robbery, Johnson says he became frustrated with an employee who refused to give him the key to the safe. In response, he shot that employee and two other employees who were present at the time. From there, he is accused of attacking them with a hammer and stabbing one employee with a screwdriver. Ultimately, Johnson escaped with the money, but was caught shortly thereafter and charged with murders of Fred Jones, Mary Bratcher and Mabel Scruggs.
After spending nearly three decades in prison, Johnson was set to be executed for the triple murder that occurred in 1994. However, several people have asked that Missouri Governor Mike Parson halt the execution because of Johnson's mental state. The Associated Press has reported that Johnson has a history of scoring extremely low on IQ tests. Attorney Jeremy Weis also noted that Johnson was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and has lost a large amount of brain tissue due to a tumor in his head. Advocates highlight Johnson's mental capacity because the Eighth Amendment bars the execution of mentally disabled Americans. In his defense, advocates gathered more than 20,000 petition signatures in support of Johnson. Also, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Rep. Cori Bush and Pope Francis called for Parson to halt the execution.
Despite the number of people calling for Parson to halt the execution, the state of Missouri went through with it as originally planned. Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann told reporters than nearly five dozen people gathered near prison grounds to protest the execution on Tuesday. Also, a number of Jones, Sruggs and Bratcher's relatives were in attendance on Tuesday evening.
“I am sorry and have remorse for what I do,” Johnson wrote in a statement prior to his death.
“I want to say that I love my family and friends. I am thankful of all that my [lawyer] has done for me. They made me feel love as if I was family to them.”
Johnson was given an injection of pentobarbital just after 6 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m. on October 5. He is the first man to be executed by the state since May 2020 and the seventh man to be executed by the state this year.
Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor. These additional resources are also available:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
For more mental health resources, click HERE.