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Gathering for Remembrance, Life, and Mercy

"Community members opposed to the planned state execution of Ernest Lee Johnson gathered Friday afternoon outside the Boone County Courthouse to rally against the death penalty in Missouri.

Johnson, who was convicted in the killings of three Columbia Casey's General Store employees in 1994, is set be killed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Oct. 5.

"He didn't receive justice, nor mercy," said Michelle Smith, racial justice coordinator of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

The goal of the gathering was not to get Johnson freed, but to ask he not be executed, said Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP.

"It's not in line with our moral code. It's not in line with our religious tenets. And it's not in line with the law," Chapel said of the execution.

Wiley Miller, co-chair of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said he believes the death penalty "cheapens life."

There is no evidence the death penalty deters crime any more effectively than long-term imprisonment, the American Civil Liberties Union says.

"We have to look out for each other," Miller said. "We should never give up. We should always try to salvage our fellow human beings."

Dr. Laura Schopp, chair of the Department of Health Psychology in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, spoke on her belief that the ruling was not based on science, but rather "armchair observations" from attorneys and the jury.

She emphasized the need for both public and judicial decisions to be informed by science.

Johnson's full-scale IQ tests reveal him to have sub-average intellectual functioning, well within the range of sub-average intelligence, advocates say.

"Ernest is a human. His worst mistake does not define who he is," Smith said.

The death penalty "will only serve the interests of the undertakers," said Jeff Stack, coordinator of Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Each speaker touched on the theme of systemic racism within Missouri courts.

Read more via the Columbia Tribune

Images Credit: Don Shrubshell

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