Missouri governor asked by lawmakers and pope to stop executions

Pope Francis joined the chorus calling for Missouri Governor. Mike Parson should grant clemency for a death row inmate set to be executed after he was convicted of three murders during a 1994 robbery at a convenience store.

Missouri governor asked by lawmakers and pope to stop executions

A representative of Pope Francis wrote last week that the pope "wishes you to place before your the simple fact of Mister Johnson's humanity, and the sacredness all human life," referring specifically to Ernest Johnson who will be executed at 6 pm Tuesday at Bonne Terre state prison, 50 miles (80 km) south of St. Louis.

Republican Parson has been looking at whether to reduce Johnson's sentence from 61 years to life imprisonment without parole.

Johnson's lawyer, Jeremy Weis, stated that execution would be against the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This amendment prohibits the execution of intellectually disabled persons. Multiple IQ tests and other examinations have proven that Johnson has the intellectual ability of a child. Johnson was also born with fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In 2008, about 20% of his brain tissue was removed due to a benign tumor.

Two Missouri lawmakers, Democratic U.S. Reps. Cori Bus of St. Louis (racial justice activist) and Emmanuel Cleaver from Kansas City (disabled), have called for Parson's mercy.

In August, the Missouri Supreme Court refused to stop the execution and declined to hear the case again Friday.

Johnson admitted to the killing of three workers at Casey's General Store, Columbia, on February 12, 1994. The victims were Mary Bratcher (46), and Fred Jones (58), Mabel Scruggs and Fred Jones. The victims were then shot and attacked using a clawhammer. Bratcher was also stabbed in his hand using a screwdriver.

Officers discovered a bag containing $443 and coin wrappers, partially burnt checks, and tennis shoes that were matching the bloody shoeprints inside the store at Johnson's girlfriend's home.

Johnson had previously requested that Johnson's execution be performed by firing squad. Missouri does not allow this method of execution. His lawyers suggested that pentobarbital (a lethal injection drug in Missouri) could cause seizures because of the loss of brain tissue.

Johnson was sentenced to execution in his first trial, and twice more times. In 2003, Johnson was sentenced to death again after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled execution of the mentally ill unconstitutionally cruel. Johnson was sentenced to a third consecutive death sentence by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2006.

If execution goes ahead as planned, it will be the seventh execution in the U.S.A this year. However, it will not involve a federal prisoner or inmate in Texas.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 1999 was the year of executions. There were 98 in the United States. However, that number has steadily declined. Last year, 17 people were executed -- 10 in Texas, and three each in Georgia and Tennessee.

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