A petition seeking clemency for Ernest Johnson has been signed by over 23,000 people. Signatures were delivered to the office of Governor Mike Parson this past Wednesday, September 29th, after a rally which drew dozens to the Missouri Capitol including faith and civil rights leaders, disability rights activists, clinicians specialized in intellectual disability, Missouri constituents, and abolitionists.
Speakers at Wednesday’s rally spoke to the extent of Ernest Johnson’s intellectual disability, the unconstitutionality of executing those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the moral and ethical standards by which our state government ought to be operating, and the historical ties the death penalty has to Missouri's lengthy history of racial terror lynchings, slavery, and jim crow segregation.
Board Certified Neuropsychologist Dr. Laura Schopp stated, “The Supreme Court of the United States has told us that it's unconstitutional to execute people with an intellectual disability. When I look at the data from Ernest Johnson's long history of low IQ scores, impaired functional living skills, and the fact that he’s dealt with this all his life it’s hard to come up with any other conclusion that Ernest Johnson deserves clemency.”
Prominent faith leaders including, Reverend Darryl Gray, Pastor Richard Jackson, Minister Carol Jackson and Rita Linhardt, called upon the Governor to temper justice with mercy. Reverend Darryl Gray of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and St. Louis Clergy Coalition, said killing Johnson would be wrong. “Ernest is not competent or capable to receive the type of vengeance that the death penalty brings,” Gray said. “We appeal to the governor to look at the facts.”
Nimrod Chapel Jr., President of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP and Board Chair at MADP, wrote in a recent op-ed, “As much as society wants to move beyond our past, the vestiges of racial injustice, institutional marginalization and systemic dehumanization linger on through systems like the death penalty. Even though these things are endeavored to be hidden and silenced behind the concrete walls and steel bars of prisons, the barbarism and cruelty of executing a Black man with an intellectual and developmental disability illustrate these horrors clearly. Ernest Johnson deserves mercy, compassion and, most importantly, he deserves recognition of his constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.”
“How is this the land of liberty and justice if we are still executing people?” - Wajeeh Lion, International Human Rights Activist and MADP Board Member
Photo: Rev. Darryl Gray speaking at the Petition Drop for Ernest Johnson at the Missouri State Capitol, September 29th, 2021. Photo Credit: Philip Deitch.