According to Khorry Ramey, the state law that prevents anyone under the age of 21 from attending an execution is unlawful. Kevin Johnson, her dad, is scheduled to be executed this month.
On Friday, a court upheld the constitutionality of a Missouri law that prevents a 19-year-old woman from seeing her father’s execution because of her age.
Khorry Ramey, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, has filed a federal court petition to be allowed to witness her father’s death on Tuesday.
Kevin Johnson, now 37 years old, has been serving time for the 2005 murder of Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer William McEntee since Ramey was two years old.
“Ramey said in a statement, “I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments. ” He said, “He has worked extremely hard to reform himself in prison.
My family and I hope that [Governor Mike] Parson will show mercy and pardon my dad.” Supporters of Johnson point out that he was also 19 years old when the crime was committed.
The lawyer for the Johnsons, Shawn Nolan, told reporters on Friday, “It’s ironic that Kevin was 19 when he committed this murder and they still want to move forward with this execution, but they won’t allow his daughter who is 19 at this time in because she’s too young.”
According to Michelle Smith, co-director of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Johnson had asked for his daughter, a spiritual advisor, an older brother, and the administrator of his primary school to be witnesses to his execution.
However, according to Missouri statute, no one under the age of 21 may attend an execution.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an emergency motion arguing that Ramey’s constitutional rights had been violated since the law “single[d] out adults younger than 21… without any rational nexus to a legitimate governmental or penological aim.”
It is still “in the public’s interest to allow states to implement their laws and administer state prisons without court involvement,” U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes wrote in a written order, finding that Ramey had failed to demonstrate “unconstitutionality.”
Ramey stated in a statement before the judge’s judgment that she wanted to watch the execution as a way to grieve and find “peace of mind.”
After Ramey’s son, “I am my dad’s closest living relative,” he stated. If my father were in the hospital and dying, I would stay by his side and pray with him till the end.
Ramey claims that her father’s imprisonment has not strained their relationship. She maintained regular contact with him through weekly phone calls and visits to his prison cell.
She recently had her first child, Kiaus, and began working as a nursing assistant. She mentioned that she and Kiaus visited her father at the Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri not too long ago.
Ramey reflected on the experience, saying, “That was lovely but bittersweet to me because I understood it would be the only time my dad would get to hold [his] grandson.”
Ramey’s lawyer and deputy director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, Corene Kendrick, stated that it is unusual for a person’s age to prevent them from witnessing an execution.
She further noted that only Nevada has an age limit of 21, while neither the federal government nor any state has a minimum age above 18.
Kendrick argued that preventing Ramey from witnessing her father’s last moments was “gratuitous punishment” after she had already lost her mother at the age of 4.
According to Kendrick, Ramey saw her mother being shot by her ex-boyfriend. She then emphasized that “this is a unique scenario.”
There has never been a case like this before in the history of death penalty litigation, and any has ever seen it of us.
In a court filing, the Missouri attorney general’s office defended the constitutionality of the state’s present law on the grounds that it “prevents juveniles from witnessing death,” “preserves the solemnity of the execution,” and “ensures the witnesses can give truthful accounts of the execution.”
Prosecutors from the state had no immediate response to the judge’s decision.
In July 2005, McEntee was one of the police officers dispatched to Johnson’s house to execute the warrant for his arrest.
The police felt Johnson had broken the terms of his probation for abusing his fiancée, for which he was on probation.
When Johnson’s 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, spotted the police, he woke up and raced to their grandmother’s house next door. There, the youngster with a congenital cardiac problem fell and had a seizure.
In court, Johnson testified that McEntee prevented his mother from entering the house to help his brother, who later died in the hospital.
In response to unrelated reports of fireworks being set off later that evening, McEntee returned to the area. As a result, he ran into Johnson at that point.
When the policeman approached, Johnson drew his gun and fired at him. Prosecutors claim he approached the downed officer and fired another fatal shot as the policeman was kneeling in pain.
After a special prosecutor, Edward Keenan, filed a motion to delay Johnson’s execution, his future is still uncertain.
Keenan claims in the filing that Johnson’s 2007 trial included “unconstitutional racial discrimination.” On Monday after work, there will be a hearing.
However, according to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, “the remaining victims of Johnson’s crimes have waited long enough for justice,” and the execution should proceed.
When Johnson is executed on Tuesday, it will be the busiest month of 2022 for the United States death penalty.
Although this month would have been the busiest for executions nationwide in several years, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently halted the practice following the third failure of a lethal injection in the state.
Source: NBC News