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Despite calls for clemency, Missouri man executed for 1994 murders

"No one ever said that Ernest was innocent or that he needed to be let out of prison,” said Smith

ST. LOUIS — For the first time since May of 2020, a man has been put to death inside a Missouri prison using lethal injection.

"Mr. Johnson was mouthing words to his relatives, or friends, as the process began,” said Associated Press reporter Jim Salter.

Having exhausted all of their legal options, a group of people prayed outside of Eastern Reception Diagnostic Correctional Center as Ernest Johnson took his last breath.

"We did all we could,” said Michelle Smith. “Ernest legal team did all they could."

The 61-year -old Johnson was convicted of the 1994 murders of three people inside a Columbia, Missouri, Casey's after shooting them and beating them to death with a claw hammer.

"No one ever said that Ernest was innocent or that he needed to be let out of prison,” said Smith.

However supporters argued that he shouldn't be executed since he had failed multiple IQ tests and was intellectually disabled after being born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

"From the time that he was born until the day that he died he didn't have the intellectual capacity to understand all of these ramifications,” said Smith.

Multiple politicians and even Pope Francis pushed the state of Missouri, and the Supreme Court, to reconsider the death penalty.

On Monday, Gov. Mike Parson denied clemency.

"I don't even think they really considered it,” said Smith. “I thought they would give it some weight, and give it some time, and maybe give him a stay."

"I'm angry that people would hide behind a veneer of faith, call themselves people of faith, and not have any sense of justice,” said Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould.

Justice that Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould and Michelle Smith say they will keep fighting for in an effort to eliminate the death penalty in Missouri.

"We've normalized death,” said Gould. “We've normalized injustice. We've normalized having no mercy."

"The death penalty doesn't solve anything,” said Smith.  It doesn't stop the next crime from happening.  It's just something that is arbitrary and needs to go away."

Ernest Johnson apologized for his crimes in his last remarks.

The families of Johnson’s victims declined to provide a statement after his execution.

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