• Urgent Action


July 19, 2023

Johnny Johnson, a 45-year-old man long diagnosed with severe mental disabilities, including schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri on 1 August 2023 for the 2002 murder of a six-year-old girl. His lawyers have presented the findings of a neuropsychiatrist that he does not have a rational understanding of the reason for his punishment, instead believing Satan is using the State to execute him to bring about the end of the world. International law prohibits the execution of people with serious mental disabilities, including those with a diminished ability to understand the reasons for their sentence.


  1. Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on August 1, 2023.
  2. Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
  3. Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 68.23. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.


Office of Governor Michael L. Parson
P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City
MO 65102, USA
Email via: https://governor.mo.gov/contact-us/mo-governor 


Dear Governor Parson,

Johnny Johnson is due to be executed at 6pm on 1 August 2023. The crime of which he was convicted was undoubtedly serious. I do not seek to minimize this seriousness or to downplay the suffering caused.

Johnny Johnson has been diagnosed with serious mental (psychosocial) disabilities since childhood, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and major depressive disorder. He was under treatment for schizophrenia at the time of the crime and has been treated for such disorders since being arrested on that day.

In 1986, in Ford v. Wainwright, the US Supreme Court affirmed that the execution of someone who has “lost his sanity” violates the Constitution. In Panetti v. Quarterman in 2007, it clarified that this includes those whose “mental state is so distorted by a mental illness” that he or she lacks a “rational understanding” of “the State’s rationale for the execution”. A neuropsychiatrist retained by Johnny Johnson’s lawyers concluded in early 2023 that Johnny Johnson is not competent for execution under this standard: that while he is aware he was convicted of murder and is on death row, he does not have a rational understanding of the link between the crime and his punishment.

Despite this evidence, the Missouri Supreme Court determined that Johnny Johnson did not meet the threshold standard for incompetency to be executed. The Court further found that “evolving standards of decency” do not render Johnny Johnson ineligible for execution due to his severe mental disability.

Employing its “evolving standards of decency” analysis, the US Supreme Court has excluded children and people with intellectual disability from the death penalty. In denying relief to Johnny Johnson, the Missouri Supreme Court emphasized that the courts have declined to extend these categorical protections to those with serious mental disabilities. I urge you to recognize, however, that in numerous states, including Missouri, bills have been introduced to ban the use of the death penalty against such individuals. In 2019, Ohio passed such a law, specifying that the offender’s condition need not meet “the standard to be found not guilty by reason of insanity
. . . or the standard to be found incompetent to stand trial.” In 2022, Kentucky took a significant step by passing a law that grants exemption from the death penalty to offenders who exhibit “active symptoms and a
well-documented history, including an official diagnosis” of specified mental disabilities such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

I urge you to grant the request for clemency filed before you for Johnny Johnson and to commute his death sentence.

Yours sincerely,