[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----MISSOURI
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Jan 16 17:57:49 CST 2008
Johnson penalty is upheld----Murderer of 3 sentenced to death.
The Missouri Supreme Courts ruling yesterday to uphold the death sentence
for convicted murderer Ernest Lee Johnson is just another step in a long,
drawn-out legal nightmare for Jerry Blakey. "I know they go to great
lengths to make sure the rights of the accused are protected and the
wrongfully convicted arent put to death," said Blakey, whose cousin, Fred
Jones, was one of three people murdered by Johnson on Feb. 12, 1994, as
they closed up the Caseys store on Ballenger Lane.
"We know this will come to a conclusion," Blakey said. "The question is
whether well be alive to see that day come."
In 1995, Johnson was convicted of the 1994 murders of Jones, 58, Mary
Bratcher, 46, and Mable Scruggs, 57, who were closing the business for the
night when Johnson entered the store with a handgun and robbed the cash
register. He bludgeoned the 3 victims with a hammer and flat-head
In upholding Johnson's death sentence, Judge Mary Russell wrote that
Johnson's mental retardation did not need to be proved by prosecutors
beyond a reasonable doubt. "Determining a defendant is mentally retarded
is not a finding of fact that increases the potential range of punishment;
it is a finding that removes the defendant from consideration of the death
penalty," Russell wrote in a majority opinion that said Johnson had not
proved he was mentally retarded.
The 4-3 ruling will likely be appealed, said an attorney for Johnson,
Elizabeth Unger Carlyle of Columbus, Miss.
A Boone County jury recommended the death sentence for Johnson in 1995,
but the Missouri Supreme Court overturned that penalty, contending defense
lawyers failed to provide enough testimony about Jackson's background of
abuse and drug addiction. 4 years later, a Clay County jury decided
Johnson should be executed.
In 2003, the sentence was again overturned as the state's highest court
ordered another penalty phase trial, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision
that called execution of a retarded person cruel and unusual. After a
Pettis County jury's verdict in 2006, Johnson again was ordered executed.
Former Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane, now a circuit judge,
characterized Johnson as a "cold-blooded killer" who planned, executed and
tried to cover up his crime.
Johnson was a frequent shopper at the store and had visited the store 4
times on the day of the murders. He also wore layers of clothing to commit
the crimes and later peeled off the top layer, leaving bloody clothes in a
nearby field. He burned checks and food stamps taken from the store but
kept the cash, which he used the next day to buy jewelry for his
In his May 2006 retrial in Boone County, 2 defense experts testified that
Johnson's low IQ scores, cocaine addiction and mother's drinking during
pregnancy proved Johnson was mentally retarded.
Denis Keyes, an associate professor of special education at the College of
Charleston in South Carolina, said he tested Johnsons IQ in 2003 and
measured it at 67, well below the average IQ of 100.
Keyes told the jury IQ tests in 2003 and 2004 each resulted in a score of
67. Other tests over the years, beginning when Johnson was 8, measured his
IQ at 63, 77, 84 and 95.
(source: Columbia Tribune)
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