By Paloma Sifuentes and Daniella Dueñas
KANSAS CITY, MO – Corionsa “Khorry” Ramey is just 19, but is going to court to allow her to be present at her father’s (Kevin Johnson) execution.
Johnson is scheduled to be executed Nov. 29, and put his daughter Khorry on the witness list.
But, a Missouri law has prohibited anyone under the age of 21 to be a witness at an execution.
On behalf of Ramey, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed an emergency motion in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
The emergency motion claims the Missouri law violates Khorry Ramey’s constitutional First Amendment right of association and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The ACLU argues the age restriction is not supported under any safety or penological reasons, noting a majority of the states that still have the death penalty do not have an age requirement for any of the family members wanting to witness an execution, and most have 18 as the minimum age to attend.
Johnson was sentenced to death for a crime he committed at the age of 19, the same age of his daughter Khorry.
In her statement to the court, Ramey explained how her father was the “most important person in her life” and was the only parent she had for the majority of her life.
“If my father were dying in the hospital, I would sit by his bed holding his hand and praying for him until his death,” she said, adding that prohibiting her from being at her father’s execution is extremely hurtful to her.
Over the course of Ramey’s life, Johnson was a dedicated father to his daughter and attempted to remain an active figure in her life even after being incarcerated, according to supporters.
Behind bars, Johnson would still call, email, and write letters to her. With help from an academic liaison that her father arranged, Ramey was able to get her high school diploma in 2020 and begin her path as a nurse. And, their bond endured through prison visits where recently Johnson was able to meet his newborn grandson.
There have been different comments regarding the situation, including some from the co-director of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Michelle Smith.
Smith wrote, “Khorry has and is experiencing unimaginable suffering in dealing with the impending loss of her dad, the only parent she has left. Denying her access to attend the execution of her beloved father is but a further piling on the trauma and unfairness she endures.”
Smith said he could not understand how at 19 years Ramey could not legally be there, when there are other circumstances that a 19-year-ld can legally be put in.
“Logic escapes me in trying to understand how a person can receive the death penalty at 19, a person can receive a life sentence in prison at 19 and a person can even be hired as a prison guard with the Missouri Department of Correction at 19; yet a person cannot witness an execution at 19,” Smith said.
Ramey’s attorney, Korey Kendrick, stated, “If the State of Missouri thinks that her father’s actions when he was 19 make him mature enough to warrant execution, then a 19-year-old should be mature enough to witness that execution.”
She added the killing of citizens is not dignified, and the least the state of Missouri can offer to lessen Ramey’s pain and grief is by letting her attend her father’s execution.
Anthony Rothert, director for integrated advocacy of the ACLU of Missouri, said, “Kevin Johnson is Ms. Ramey’s only living parent—and as she says, the most important person in her life. It will not hurt the state or harm the state’s interest if it permits Ms. Ramey to witness her father’s execution.”
If anything, Rothert argued, denying Ramey’s request to be there would be wrong and hurt her more.