A 19-year-old woman is asking a federal court to override the Missouri law that bars anyone under 21 from witnessing an execution, so she can watch her father's death by injection.
On Monday (November 21), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an emergency motion in a Kansas City federal court on behalf of Khorry Ramey, the daughter of Kevin Johnson, a Black man who is preparing to face execution on November 29, The Associated Press reports.
In the court filing, the ACLU said the law prohibiting those under 21 from watching executions serves no safety purpose and violates Ramey's Constitutional rights.
Johnson is facing execution for the 2005 killing of Kirkwood, Missouri, Police Officer William McEntee.
McEntee was among the police officers sent to Johnson's home to serve him with an arrest warrant for violating his probation.
When officers arrived, Johnson awoke his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran next door to their grandmother’s house. Once there, the 12-year-old boy had a seizure and later died in the hospital.
Johnson testified at trial that McEntee stopped his mother from entering the house to help his brother.
Later that evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood, responding to an unrelated report of fireworks being shot off. That’s when he encountered Johnson, who fatally shot the officer.
Johnson’s lawyers are still trying to appeal his death sentence. The lawyers don't deny Johnson's fault but they argue racism played a role in the decision to seek the death penalty and in the jury’s decision to move forward with the sentence.
His legal team has also requested the courts intervene for other reasons, including a history of mental illness and Johnson's age at the time of the crime. He was only 19.
However, the Missouri Attorney General's Office said in a court filing last week that 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 stated.
ACLU attorney Anthony Rothert said Ramey will be left with “irreparable harm" if she is unable to attend the execution.
In a court declaration, Ramey said Johnson was “the most important person in my life.”
“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.