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MO Supreme Court Denies Relief to #ErnestJohnson

On Tuesday August 31st, The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously denied Ernest Johnson’s request for relief from the death penalty because he is intellectually disabled (ID). Johnson’s habeas petition asked the court to appoint a special master who can rely on clinicians and experts to determine his ID claim. Ernest is scheduled for execution on October 5th in Bonne Terre, MO. Ernest’s sentence was overturned two times because of errors in the presentation of evidence about his ID during the penalty phase. Johnson categorically meets all three criteria for having an ID.

“This case highlights the problematic culture of Missouri, which continues to deny science to the detriment of the most vulnerable Missourians. This is further solidified in the opinion made by the Missouri Supreme Court today, which relies on stereotypes of those with ID and not the evidence of experts,” said Elyse Max, Missourians for Alternative to the Death Penalty.

“The unfortunate decision of Missouri’s court regarding Ernest Johnson further demonstrates the terrible predicament Missourians of color, poverty, and intellectual disability find themselves in when facing a death sentence. All these factors combine not in favor of justice, but in the most final of solutions for those most ill-equipped to defend themselves.

Missouri can and should do better than the execution of a man with intellectual disabilities. There must be some credence to the concept that individuals being punished understand the finality and purpose of that punishment. Even when faced with the contradiction of rehabilitation rather than retribution through the death penalty, we must all understand this for what it is – a continuation of violence based primarily on color and social status,” said Nimrod Chapel, Jr., President of the State Conference of the NAACP.

Attorneys for Mr. Johnson plan to appeal the decision with the United States Supreme Court. We implore Governor Parson to use his executive clemency powers and grant clemency to Ernest Johnson.

Death is not justice. We need you to take action.

We ask that you use the sample correspondence below to contact Governor Parson several times per week moving forward. Should you have any questions or need assistance, please contact us at

Governor Parson Contact Information: Phone: (573) 751-3222

Sample Phone Call “Hi, my name is _____ and I live in [city and zip code]. I am calling today to ask that Governor Parson grant clemency to Ernest Lee Johnson, who is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 5th, 2021. As a person with an intellectual disability, Ernest should not be eligible for execution. [Insert more information from talking points below.] Please stop this execution and grant Ernest clemency. Thank you for your time."

Note: if you are leaving a message on an answering machine, make sure to state your name, phone number, or email address clearly.

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