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Missouri death row inmate baptized in the days leading up to scheduled execution

"He feels like God has not been there for him. Meeting Reverend Gray has reconnected him," she said.

ST. LOUIS — In the days leading up to his scheduled execution date, Kevin Johnson meets with a spiritual advisor. 

That man is Reverend Darryl Gray. Gray is a known civil rights advocate, an organizer with ExpectUs St. Louis, and an ordained clergy member. 

Johnson is scheduled to be executed on Nov. 29.

Oral argument will take place in Jefferson City in front of the Missouri Supreme Court the day prior. It's an effort to delay Johnson's execution the very next day. 

Back in 2005, a then 19-year-old Johnson killed Kirkwood police officer, William McEntee. 

Shawn Nolan, Johnson's attorney said his client has been remorseful.

On Thanksgiving, Gray visited Johnson, since he couldn't see any family members.

Michelle Smith, Co-Director of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said it was an emotional visit, filled with lots of praying. She also shared that Johnson was just baptized on Nov. 8.

Smith explained Johnson has had a lot of issues with religion.

"He feels like God has not been there for him. Meeting Reverend Gray has reconnected him," she said.

Gray will be with Johnson in the execution chamber if the scheduled death continues Tuesday, Smith and Nolan said. 

The case

Advocates, such as Missouri's NAACP, say the execution should be delayed, claiming bias and racial discrimination 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. "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."

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

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.               

It further claimed McCulloch sought the death penalty in the four cases involving Black defendants, but not for the white defendant.

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

Nolan said, "The prosecutor is asking to stop the execution. I’ve been doing this work a long long time and I never had a case where the prosecutor asked to stop the execution."

Johnson's daughter, Khorry Ramey, has been asking for clemency from Governor Mike Parson. 

In a recent interview, Parson said the execution will continue. 

Khorry Ramey's fight

Khorry Ramey was two at the time when her father was given a death sentence. 

And since then, she also lost her mom.

In 2007, Ramey was 4 years old when her mother was murdered in front of her by her ex-boyfriend. 

Ramey is 19 and in the state of Missouri, you have to be 21 to witness an execution.

Corene Kendrick is with the ACLU National Prison Project and she's Khorry Ramey's attorney. 

"We're asking the court that this irrational law discriminates against Khorry and that Missouri shouldn't use it as an excuse to keep her from bearing witness when he's taken away from her," she said. 

Kendrick asked for Ramey to be allowed behind the glass wall to watch the execution. 

"For the sate to punish Khorry, to not allow her to grieve with her father to be there with him just compounds her pain and grief," Kendrick said.

On Friday evening, a federal judge denied Ramey's request to attend her father's execution. 

“I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments,” said Ramey in a statement released by the ACLU. “My dad is the most important person in my life. He has been there for me my whole life, even though he’s been incarcerated. He is a good father, the only parent I have left. He has worked very hard to rehabilitate himself in prison. I pray that Governor Parson will give my dad clemency.”  

"We are extremely disappointed in the decision upholding this irrational and illogical law, which only serves to gratuitously punish Ms. Ramey,” Kendrick said in the statement. 

"Compounding her pain and grief by barring her from being with her father will do nothing to provide closure or healing to anyone else. The State of Missouri can still do right by Ms. Ramey if the Governor grants her father clemency. If 19 is not old enough to witness an execution, then the state should spare Mr. Johnson’s life for what he did when he was 19," said Kendrick.

The crime 

Kirkwood police officer William McEntee was one of the 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. 

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.

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.

What's next

Oral argument is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 28 at 1:30 PM. 

Civil rights and faith leaders, including Reverend Gray, will host a news  conference at 12:30, before the oral argument outside the Missouri Supreme Court Building.

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