A Missouri inmate convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis-area police officer whom he blamed for the death of his younger brother has been executed Tuesday, officials said.
Kevin Johnson, 37, was put to death by lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre. The execution began at 7:29 p.m. and Johnson was pronounced dead at 7:40 p.m., said Karen Pojmann, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Johnson has not made a definitive statement, she said. He refused a last meal.
Johnson had admitted that he killed Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee in 2005. Johnson was 19 at the time.
Edward Keenan, a court-appointed special prosecutor, had sought to have his death sentence overturned. Keenan argued in a appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court that Johnson’s trial was “contaminated” with racist prosecution techniques and that racial discrimination played a role in getting the death penalty.
One of Johnson’s attorneys, Shawn Nolan, said, “Make no mistake, Missouri has been prosecuted several times, sentenced to death, and killed Kevin because he’s black.”
Johnson was executed after the US Supreme Court denied a request for a stay on Tuesday night. Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson allegedly granted it, court records show.
In a statement read Tuesday by the director of the correctional department after the execution, Parson said Johnson’s claims were reviewed by state and federal courts “and no court has reversed his conviction or conviction.”
“We hope this will bring an end to Sergeant McEntee’s loved ones who continue to suffer without him,” he said.
Mary McEntee, the slain officer’s widow, said on Tuesday that her husband was executed on July 5, 2005, when he was “ambushed and shot five times in his squad car.” He was then shot twice more, she said.
“In this process, many have forgotten that Bill was the victim,” Mary McEntee said Tuesday night. “We miss Bill every day of our lives.”
On July 5, 2005, police were looking for Johnson, who was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend. Police believed he had violated his probation. McEntee was one of the officers sent to Johnson’s house.
Johnson’s 12-year-old brother, who had a congenital heart defect, ran next door to his grandmother’s house, where he had a seizure. He died in hospital. Johnson testified at trial that McEntee stopped his mother from entering the house to help his brother. According to Johnson, he met McEntee that same night when he returned to his neighborhood for an unrelated call about a fireworks malfunction. Johnson shot McEntee multiple times and fled, prosecutors said. Three days later he turned himself in.
Keenan, the special prosecutor, told the state Supreme Court that the office of former St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch heard five cases accusing defendants of killing police officers during his tenure. McCulloch sought the death penalty against all four black defendants but did not seek the death penalty in the one case in which the defendant was white, the indictment said.
“The prosecution of the trial only invited the white defendant to present mitigating circumstances for consideration before the prosecutor decided whether to seek the death penalty and thereafter the prosecutor did not seek the death penalty against the white defendant,” said Keenan. separate lawsuit. “No similar invitations have been made to submit mitigating evidence for any of the four black defendants.”
The motion to stay states that there are no “legitimate case characteristics that could plausibly explain the disparate treatment.”
Keenan also said in a document that in statements he made to other prosecutors, McCulloch displayed “a particular hostility toward young black men like Mr. Johnson, regarding them as a population that ‘we were dealing with,’ and they depict them as stereotypical criminals.”
McCulloch was not immediately available for comment.
Johnson’s daughter, Khorry Ramey, 19, had tried to witness the execution, but a state law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from observing the trial. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last week a federal court asked to allow her to attend her father’s execution, but a judge on Friday ruled that a state law barring her from attending because of her age is constitutional.
Ramey visited Johnson Tuesday morning, said Pojmann, the correctional department spokesman. Four witnesses for Johnson were present at the execution, she said.
McEntee had three children, ages 7, 10 and 13, when he was killed, his widow said Tuesday night after the execution.
“They haven’t had a chance to say goodbye,” Mary McEntee said. “It took 17 years of grieving and perseverance to get to this point today. This is something I hope no other family has to go through.”