Monday, October 26, 2015

Don't Sit on Your Hands While MISSOURI Kills Another Man In the System They All Admit Is Busted

From: Fellowship of Reconciliation-Mid-MO chapter [
Resist the planned Nov. 3 Execution of Ernest Lee Johnsona man who is intellectually disabled (ID)— in violation of Missouri law, US Supreme Court decisions and human decency. There are several ways to do so…

Tomorrow: Tuesday, Oct. 27, Join a “Gathering for Life” from 12-1:00 pm in front of Columbia’s City Hall at Broadway and 8th St. Scroll done for more info on means to resist the execution. 
Friday: Hear Sr. Helen Prejean speak in Kansas City, 7:00 pm., Unity Temple, 707 w. 47th St.
Car-pool from Columbia: Meet at 4:30 pm, Parking Lot of AMF Bowling Alley, 1508 N. Providence (just south of I-70).

Sr. Helen, perhaps the best known advocate in the world for ending the death penalty, is author of the best-selling books, Dead Man Walking and the Death of Innocents.  The former was of course made into movie nominated for an Oscar award.  To help cover costs and raise funds for efforts to promote alternatives to the death penalty, admission will be $5 for students and $10 for everyone else.  For info about joining the Columbia caravan, call 573-449-4585. For more on the event itself and Sr. Helen, log onto

Contact Gov. Nixon.  Call 573-751-3222; write a letter, mail it to Room 216, State Capitol, Jefferson City MO 65101, fax 573-751-1495 or via e-mail, type into your internet browser the reduced url:

Urge Attorney General Chris Koster to cease pushing for executionsincluding that of Ernest Lee Johnson.
Call 573-751-3321 or write: PO Box 899, Jefferson City MO 652101.
Attend Vigils for Life on Tuesday Nov. 3--if the execution has not been halted
* Jefferson City: 12 pm  1 PM outside Governor's officeRoom 216, State Capitol Building; car-pool from Columbia, 11:10 am, Clover’s Parking Lot, East Broadway, near Old Hwy 63
*Vigil across the street from the Missouri Supreme Court Bldg. on West High St. 5-6 PM

* Columbia:  5-6 pm, Boone County Courthousein front of the columns, Walnut and 8th streets
. Background on life of Earnest Lee Johnson – from Mo. Catholic Conference letter to Gov. Jay Nixon
Mr. Johnson suffers from lifelong developmental disabilities (formerly referred to as mental retardation).

In 2001, the Missouri General Assembly passed, and Governor Bob Holden signed, legislation that would prevent the execution of persons with intellectual disabilities. 

According to Missouri statute, “mental retardation” is defined as significantly sub-average intellectual functioning with continual extensive related deficits and limitations in two or more adaptive behaviors such as communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure and work, which conditions are manifested and documented before eighteen years of age. 

A year later the U.S. Supreme Court issued Atkins v Virginia, a landmark ruling that banned the execution of persons with intellectual disabilities because such executions violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court in Hall v Florida further affirmed Eighth Amendment protections against the execution of the intellectually disabled when it noted that “no legitimate penological purpose is served by executing a person with intellectual disabilities.”

It is thus apparent by both Missouri statute and Supreme Court rulings, that the execution of a person with developmental disabilities violates our society’s standard of decency.

It is equally apparent from numerous experts who have evaluated Earnest Lee Johnson that he is intellectually disabled under current Missouri law and thus should be spared execution.

Throughout the course of his life Mr. Johnson has had seven IQ tests administered to him. All but one of the tests has found scores in the intellectually disabled range. In fact his IQ score at age eight (66.3) is almost identical to the last test (66.4) taken in 1997. A diagnosis of intellectual disability requires an IQ below 70-75, which is considered “significantly sub average intellectual functioning.”

Mr. Johnson’s academic history also shows significant intellectual deficits. He was retained three times during his school years, twice in elementary school and once in high school. In addition he was either in “ungraded” or Special Education classes for his entire academic career. By the ninth grade his reading level was still on the second grade level. He dropped out of school in the 9th grade when he was 16.  

Mr. Johnson has also shown lifelong limitations in adaptive behaviors. He was delayed in talking and walking and as he grew he was not able to carry on normal conversations. He lacked socialization skills and had no close friends in school and was often teased by other students. He was easily influenced by others. He was very impulsive and often did things without thinking of the consequences. He had no successful work history, and had difficulty performing menial jobs. He was never able to live independently and even in his twenties was only able to survive by staying with other relatives or friends.

Mr. Johnson suffers from brain damage due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), head injuries and substance abuse.

Several of the doctors who have evaluated Mr. Johnson have concluded that his brain functioning is within the brain damaged range. This damage could arise from several sources. Mr. Johnson’s mother, Jean Ann Patton, was a chronic alcoholic who abused both alcohol and other drugs, even when she was pregnant with Mr. Johnson. Subsequently, he was born prematurely, was underweight and small in size throughout childhood, and suffered numerous physical ailments early in life. He also had developmental delays, socialization problems and poor communications skills, all of which are symptoms of FAS.

Mr. Johnson has also experienced head injury: at eight years of age he fell off a cotton wagon and lost consciousness when he hit the concrete pavement. In 1989 he was struck in the head by a metal folding chair, lost consciousness again, and was treated at a hospital.

Mr. Johnson also has a substantial history of substance dependence. With the approval of his mother, he began drinking alcohol around age 12 and by 17 was drinking up to twelve beers and some gin on a daily basis. By age 32 he was drinking a case of beer daily and suffering from black-outs and signs of withdrawal. He began smoking marijuana at age 15 and was smoking crack cocaine by his late 20s. Like his alcohol intake, his use of crack cocaine increased with time.

The consequences of Mr. Johnson’s history of FAS, head injury and substance dependence impacted his ability to concentrate, think clearly and to problem solve. His impaired judgement affected his ability to make good choices and to fully understand the criminality of his conduct.

Mr. Johnson had an impoverished, abusive childhood.

Mr. Johnson’s mother, Jean Ann Patton, married his father, Bobby Johnson, Sr., when she was just a teenager. The couple had three children together. They eventually separated. Jean Ann Patton, who began drinking as early as age 10, was a chronic alcoholic and drug user who also had a history of depression. She had great difficulty carrying out the responsibilities of being a mother and exposed her children to many vices. 

When Mr. Johnson was eleven his mother began prostituting herself to support her drug and alcohol additions. Her sexual encounters often took place when the children were present. Her children also witnessed her stealing items from these men. Before long Jean Ann had involved her children in prostitution and would reward them for their compliance with alcohol and drugs. After being teased by other children for their poor attire and circumstances, Johnson and his siblings began to steal food and clothing for the family. By the time he was fifteen, Johnson was basically unsupervised.

Around that time Jean Ann had married Albert Patton and had two children with him. By all accounts Mr. Patton physically and sexually abused all the children, including Ernest. It is little surprise that after being sexualized and prostituted by this mother in his early teens, then sexually abused by his step-father in his mid-teens that Johnson, who was incarcerated for his first felony offense at age 18, would also be sexually assaulted by several inmates in prison.

Throughout his childhood Ernest Johnson lacked the structure and support needed for a healthy upbringing. His role models on both sides of the family abused substances and could become violent when under the influence. Combined with his increasing use of drugs and alcohol and his limited intellectual abilities and coping skills, Earnest Johnson continued on a downward spiral.

This is a story of utmost tragedy. It is a tragedy that Mary Bratcher, Fred Jones and Mabel Scruggs lost their lives in such a senseless, brutal crime. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this difficult time. 

Yet it also is a societal tragedy that Ernest Lee Johnson was not provided a more safe, secure environment and upbringing that would have allowed him to develop to the best of his capabilities. For a society to execute a person with such limited mental capacity and brain damage is a travesty of justice and violates our modern standards of decency. We urge you to consider mercy in this case and commute Johnson’s sentence to life without parole.

Beyond the aspects of this particular case, as civic and religious leaders, we are concerned that the use of the death penalty promotes revenge as a principle of justice. The death penalty simply promotes vengeance as a means of resolving social problems. It appears that the very violence that frightens us so much is making us proponents of violence.

We continue to be deeply concerned about the accelerated rate at which the state is carrying out these executions (eighteen in the last 23 months) and the secrecy shrouding this process. The death sentences that the Missouri Supreme Court is now ordering executed reflect jury behavior of past generations rather than what death-qualified juries and elected prosecutors are doing today.

A stay of all executions would allow us to find more effective ways to promote justice and accountability in our society. Considering this state has the current option of life without parole, there are other methods that could be employed that would promote “real justice” for victims and our society.

We believe that it is in the interest of the common good of the people of our state that this cycle of violence be broken. The common good of the people of Missouri would be better served by the commutation of this death sentence.

For the above stated reasons, we request that you commute the death sentence of Ernest Lee Johnson to life without parole, or in the alternative, grant a stay of execution and appoint a board of inquiry to investigate the claims raised in this correspondence.

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