Missouri Executes Black Man after Courts Refuse Appeals – Lawmaker Charges ‘Criminal Justice System’ Failed Kevin Johnson 

PC: Tom Williams/ Getty images via truthout.org

By Taylor Smith and Alyssa Eng

BONNE TERRE, MO – U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (MO) has released a statement critical of the execution, after 17 years on death row, of Kevin Johnson who was executed Tuesday night by the state of Missouri, the 2nd execution in Missouri and 17th in the U.S. this year.

Johnson, also known as “KJ,” was convicted of the crime for which he was sentenced to death when he was only 19 years old and had just recently witnessed the death of his younger brother.

As a Black man, Johnson felt his case was tainted by racism and police misconduct. He and a special prosecutor put in a request to stay the execution on the basis of racial prejudice for his first-degree murder conviction.

Just a week before the execution was to take place, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson received a letter from Rep. Bush along with Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (MO) insisting he put a stop to Johnson’s execution by granting him clemency. He replied in denial of this request.

The Missouri Supreme Court as well as the U.S. Supreme Court turned down appeals, and the state of Missouri proceeded with Johnson’s execution.

As a national leader in clemency reform and death penalty abolition, Rep. Bush said, “Kevin Johnson was a son, a father, a grandfather, and a brother who was taken too soon by inhumane capital punishment. My heart is with everyone who loved him,” she began.

“Between the systemic racism tainting his conviction, Gov. Mike Parson’s merciless choice to deny clemency, and the Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court’s denial of a stay of execution, KJ was consistently failed by our criminal injustice system,” said Bush.

She added, “There is no place in a humane society for state-sanctioned violence – it’s archaic, barbaric, and cold-hearted. The death penalty destroys families and communities, and its abolition is long overdue.”

Bush has been at the forefront of the fight for clemency reform and the abolition of the death penalty during her time in Congress.

She urged the President to issue pardons and commute all capital sentences to correct injustice in the clemency process. She cosponsored the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act which would ban capital sentencing on the federal level.

In 2021, Rep. Bush introduced the Fair and Independent Experts in Clemency Act alongside reps Ayanna Pressley and Hakeem Jeffries in order to address the country’s mass incarceration crisis.

About The Author

Taylor is a second year student at UC Davis pursuring a degree in Communication with a minor in Philosophy. She plans to graduate in 2023 and hopes to attend law school post-graduation to explore her many passions.

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