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Last-minute hearing scheduled day before Kevin Johnson's execution in Missouri

Johnson killed a Kirkwood police officer, William McEntee, in 2005. Johnson was 19 at the time of the crime.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The fate of a Missouri man will be determined next week.

Kevin Johnson is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 29, but a last-minute hearing may slow down the process.

Oral arguments will take place on Monday in Jefferson City in front of the Missouri Supreme Court, in an effort to delay Johnson's execution the next day.

Johnson. 37, killed a Kirkwood police officer, William McEntee, in 2005.

Johnson was 19 at the time of the crime.

Advocates, including Missouri's NAACP, say the execution should be delayed, claiming bias and racism in the case.

"If we are committed to taking a man's life, in this case Kevin Johnson, then it needs to be done fairly," Nimrod Chapel Jr., the president of Missouri's NAACP, said.

Wednesday, people who grew up with Johnson gathered at the Kirkwood Recreation Center to call for an alternative to the death penalty. Some of those supporters included Johnson's former teachers.

"He is simply asking that instead of the death penalty and being place on that gurney and having those needles be placed in his arm, he's simply asking for life without parole. He's well aware he will die in prison but in the years that he has left, he can make an incredible difference in our world. He already is," said Pam Stanfield, who was Johnson's Principal when he was in Kindergarten.

"He contributes to this world in a very very positive way and has so much benefit. We have to look at his humanity. The Governor has an amazing opportunity to choose and prioritize life and to grant Kevin clemency," Melissa Fuoss added. She was Johnson's high school teacher.

RIGHT NOW former teachers of Kevin Johnson, who killed a police officer in 2005, now rallying against his scheduled execution next week KSDK News

Posted by Brent Solomon on Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Last month, St. Louis Circuit Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott appointed a special prosecutor to review the case, E.E. Keenan. 

Keenan filed a motion last week stating race played a factor in the death sentence.

The court filing said former St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch's office handled five cases involving the deaths of police officers in his 28 years in office.

The file claimed McCulloch sought the death penalty in the four cases involving Black defendants but didn't do that with the white defendant.

An earlier court petition stated that if not for racial comments by two white jurors at his trial, Johnson could have been convicted of second-degree murder instead of first-degree.

Johnson's lawyers also have asked the courts to intervene for other reasons, including a history of mental illness and the age at the time of the crime.

However, Ott denied the request and the Missouri Attorney General's Office stated there were no grounds for court intervention.

The state petition said, “The surviving victims of Johnson’s crimes have waited long enough for justice, and every day longer that they must wait is a day they are denied the chance to finally make peace with their loss."

Chapel believes the recent findings should push back Johnson's execution next week.

"It doesn't mean that he gets out of jail. The execution itself would still be in place in his case until there's a further determination," Chapel said. 

But this case also has another twist.

Johnson's daughter, Khorry Ramey, is also working with an attorney at ACLU National after finding out in the state of Missouri, you have to be 21-years-old to witness an execution.

Ramey is 19.

Credit: Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

The ACLU argued Johnson was 19 when he committed the crime that resulted in a death sentence, the same age as his daughter is now.

Less than three weeks before his death, Johnson put in a written request in early November to list five people to attend the execution. 

He soon learned that his daughter's age was a problem. 

Corene Kendrick is the Deputy Director of the ACLU National Prison Project and Ramey's attorney.

"Just a few days ago, the Attorney General's office notified Mr. Johnson and his attorneys that Ms. Ramey would not be allowed to attend his execution. So that's that's when we stepped in," Kendrick said.

On Monday, the ACLU filed an emergency motion with a federal court in Kansas City.

The filing said the state law violates her right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment and her First Amendment right of association.

"She has a very deep bond with her father and it's the most important thing for her to be with him," Kendrick said. "We are asking the Federal Court to order the Department of Corrections to allow Ms. Ramey to be able to attend her father's execution next Tuesday."

Kendrick also noted this is a very rare situation. 

"The State of Missouri is definitely an outlier. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the overwhelming majority of death penalty states, all of them, except for Missouri and Nevada, have no age requirement for the family of the condemned person who is being executed, or the minimum age is 18. Ramey is an adult," Kendrick said.

For now, Johnson and his daughter continue to battle.

"She does not have any other living parent at this point. Besides Mr. Johnson, her mother was tragically murdered when she was four. Her father was incarcerated when she was two. It's for her own human dignity and so that she can begin the grieving process. She wants to be there with her father," Kendrick said. 

Ramey should get a decision by Friday.

Chapel also said they continue to reach out to Governor Mike Parson for clemency.

5 On Your Side reached out to a contact with the McEntee family.

We're told they do not want to talk and explain this is a very emotional situation.

McEntee was a husband and father of three.

Credit: KSDK

McEntee was one of the police officers sent to Johnson’s home back in the summer of 2005, serving a warrant for his arrest. 

Johnson was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend and police believed he violated probation.

Johnson saw officers arrive, waking up his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran next door to their grandmother’s house. 

Credit: Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

However, the boy suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and had a seizure.

At trial, Johnson testified McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to aid his brother, who died later at the hospital.

Later that day, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to check on unrelated reports of fireworks going off. 

That’s when Johnson approached him.

Johnson shot the officer. 

He then approached the wounded, kneeling officer and shot him again, killing him.

"Kevin committed a horrific crime and took away a life. That can never be fixed. However, executing Kevin would not erase the first tragedy. It would cause another one," Fuoss said.

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