"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Missouri: Ernest Lee Johnson, with a 67 IQ, Faces Execution on November 3

Ernest Lee Johnson
Ernest Lee Johnson
Ernest Lee Johnson, a 55 year-old intellectually disabled man, is scheduled to be executed by the State of Missouri on November 3, 2015. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court held that the execution of the intellectually disabled was prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, Atkins v. Virginia 536 U.S. 304 (2002), the State of Missouri persists in pursuing Mr. Johnson’s execution all the while ignoring the significant medical history supporting the finding that he is intellectually disabled and, therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

The Supreme Court recently noted in Hall v. Florida, a decision further affirming the Eighth Amendment protections against the execution of the intellectually disabled:

No legitimate penological purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disabilities. To do so contravenes the Eighth Amendment, for to impose the harshest punishments on an intellectually disabled person violates his or her inherent dignity as a human being.

In Ernest’s case, MADP seeks to have the Governor or the Courts finally recognize the inherent truth that Ernest Lee Johnson is intellectually disabled and should not be put to death.

Ernest Johnson’s IQ is 67

Ernest Johnson’s intellectually disability (IQ of 67) was affirmed by both Defense and State experts. However, the State’s expert never testified. It is virtually unheard of for the State not to present expert testimony to rebut the Defense’s case of intellectual disability. Yet they opted not to put their expert on the stand since he had also found Ernest to have an IQ of 67. His report was admitted at trial anyway because Defense expert Dr. Denis Keyes, who did testify, had reviewed it.

Interestingly, Ernest Johnson tested at an IQ of 63 at age 12. Defense expert Dr. Denis Keyes testified that Ernest Johnson is intellectually disabled and, thus, ineligible for execution under current law. However, the prosecution inappropriately targeted Ernest’s abilities to play basketball and conduct activities of daily living to suggest he could not be intellectually disabled. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities succeed in catching the bus, and engaging in a range of activities; nonetheless, their impairments in the areas of analytical reasoning still exist. Standard and accepted methodologies for diagnostic assessment reject the approach taken by the prosecutor in Ernest’s case.

According to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), Intellectual Disability involves impairments in language, reading, writing, math, reasoning, knowledge and memory; in empathy, social judgment, interpersonal communication skills, and the ability to make and retain friendships; personal care, job responsibilities, money management, recreation, and organizing school and work tasks.

Ernest Johnson has been intellectually disabled his entire life

Ernest’s mother abused alcohol and drugs, starting as early as when she was 10. Her use escalated as time went on. By the time she was 18 and pregnant with Ernest, she was downing several pints of whisky and gin each week in addition to consuming sedatives. She had a serious history of intoxication as well as several associated hospital admissions. She prostituted herself out for money to support her addictions. When that wasn’t enough, she prostituted her children out, including Ernest. Ernest watched his mother steal from the men while he would be made to have sex with them. She rewarded Ernest’s childhood prostitution with alcohol and drugs, thus turning him into an addict. Later, Ernest’s mother married a man who physically and sexually abused Ernest...

In addition to brain damage from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and major traumas during his developmental years, Ernest suffered two severe brain injuries. At age 8, Ernest fell off a cotton trailer, hitting his head on the concrete, rendering him unconscious. As a teen, Ernest was struck on the head with a chair and again suffered loss of consciousness. His sister brought him to the emergency room. In addition, Ernest’s elementary school records confirm his long-standing intellectual disability. He repeated both second and third grade. He received Special Education from third through eighth grade. He was held back again in 9th grade. The only class he earned satisfactory grades in was PE. Eventually, unable to succeed, Ernest dropped out three months into his second year in 9th grade.

Ernest’s intellectual disability, originating in early childhood, coupled with his IQ score of 67, means that Ernest’s death sentence violates current prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment as set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Atkins v. Virginia (2002) and Hall v. Florida (2014), as well as Missouri’s own laws. He should be facing life without parole.

Join us in calling on the Governor to halt this execution. Email him with this link, tweet @GovJayNixon or call him at 573-751-3222.

Contact Attorney General Chris Koster to urge that he ensure justice by halting Ernest's execution. Call 573-751-3321.

Contact your Missouri Senator and Representative to urge them to ensure that the death penalty is administered with accuracy and fairness for all.

To find your legislator: http://www.senate.mo.gov/legislookup/default.aspx

Source: Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, October 15, 2015

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