The State of Missouri is set to execute Kevin Johnson on 29 November 2022. He was sentenced to death in 2007 for the murder of a police officer in 2005. Kevin Johnson, aged 19 at the time of the crime, had experienced a lifetime of deprivation and sexual and physical abuse. The crime occurred hours after the sudden death of his younger brother. Despite Kevin Johnson’s history of psychiatric disorders, the jurors never heard any expert testimony of the effect of his brother’s death or his own traumatic history and mental disabilities when they decided whether to spare his life.
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Dear Governor Parson,
The State of Missouri is planning to execute Kevin Johnson on 29 November 2022. A jury sentenced him to death in late 2007 for the July 2005 murder of a Kirkwood police officer. The crime was undoubtedly serious, but I urge you to consider the circumstances that preceded it – the sudden death of Kevin Johnson’s younger brother on the same day as the shooting, as well as Kevin’s traumatic childhood and psychosocial (mental) disabilities.
Kevin Johnson has a history of auditory hallucinations and severe depression that started at the age of six. He had suicidal ideation and attempted suicide as a young teenager. The defence lawyers did not present any expert mental health evidence about Kevin Johnson’s mental state at the time of the shooting. Given that the jury at his first (hung) trial in early 2007 were just two votes from convicting him of second-degree murder, the fact that the jury at the second trial were denied such expert evidence is particularly troubling. Indeed in 2016, a neuropsychologist concluded that the combination of psychological disorders and impaired frontal lobe functioning meant that Kevin Johnson’s “moral compass was effectively offline” when he shot the police officer after the death of his younger brother, and that such information “could have been raised as a mitigating issue with regard to his moral culpability at the time of the offense”.
Under the US Constitution, the death penalty must be “limited to those offenders… whose extreme culpability makes them the most deserving of execution” (Roper v. Simmons, 2005). I ask you to consider how the execution of someone who was just 19 years old at the time of the crime, emerging from a childhood of appalling deprivation, neglect and sexual and physical abuse, and with mental disabilities that may have impacted his ability to deliberate at the time of the shooting, meets this standard.
Please stop this execution and commute Kevin Johnson’s death sentence.