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Disability Rights Leaders in Missouri Speak Out Against the Scheduled Execution of Ernest Johnson

"What happens to a society in which judicial practice becomes unmoored from reasonable standards of evidence? How does a just society treat people with intellectual disabilities?" - Laura Schopp, Ph.D., ABPP.

These questions continue to be raised by disability rights organizations, clinicians, and advocates in Missouri as the state prepares to move forward with the scheduled execution of Ernest Lee Johnson, a Black man with intellectual disabilities, on Oct. 5th, 2021.

Last week, leaders of several Missouri organizations who serve people with Intellectual Disabilities submitted a letter to Governor Parson calling for clemency for Ernest Johnson and asking the Governor to call a Board of Inquiry to review the medical and clinical evidence of his Intellectual Disability claim. The letter is signed by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council, Easterseals Midwest, Emmaus Homes, Inc., and St. Louis ARC. The letter reads:

We believe a grant of clemency is merited given the evidence already collected. At a minimum, an independent Board of Inquiry should be empaneled where it is strongly felt they will agree Mr. Johnson is ID because this diagnosis has been confirmed by his IQ of 67, adaptive deficits, and onset before age 18. That means Mr. Johnson’s death sentence violates Missouri laws and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Atkins and implementing Atkins, which deemed the execution of persons with ID as cruel and unusual punishment.

Ernest Johnson was convicted of the 1994 murders of Mabel Scruggs, Fred Jones and Mary Bratcher in a botched armed robbery of a Casey’s General Store in Columbia. Johnson’s guilt is not in question, but to carry out this execution would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment because of extensive evidence that Ernest has an intellectual disability.

Click the link below to view the Opinion piece that ran in the Columbia Tribune this weekend:

There are many ways you can take action and advocate for Ernest Johnson.

  1. If you are a leader of an organization, please sign the organization letter here:

  2. Contact Gov. Parson’s office today at 573-751-3222 and urge him to commute Ernest Johnson’s sentence to life in prison, and convene a Board of Inquiry of neutral mental health experts to consider the extent of his disability. You can also write to Governor Parson at Office of the Governor of Missouri, P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65102, or by email at,

  3. Participate in online calls to the Governor, learn more about Ernest, and join us for a variety of events over the coming week by using the Clemency for Ernest Johnson Toolkit HERE.

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