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Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) speaks at The National Council for Incarcerated Women and Girls "100 Women for 100 Women" rally in Black Lives Matter Plaza near The White House on March 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. The organization and its supporters are urging President Joe Biden to release 100 women currently incarcerated in federal prison.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) speaks at the National Council for Incarcerated Women and Girls "100 Women for 100 Women" rally in Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on March 12, 2021. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Cori Bush Among Advocates Demanding Clemency for Ernest Lee Johnson Ahead of Scheduled Execution

"The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice. They are about who has institutional power and who doesn't."

Julia Conley

Adding their voices to calls made in recent weeks by Pope Francis and other death penalty opponents, Reps. Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver are petitioning for clemency in the case of Ernest Lee Johnson, a man who has an intellectual disability and is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.
 
Writing to their state's Republican governor, Mike Parson, on Friday, the Missouri Democrats said in their letter (pdf) that the execution "would be a grave act of injustice."
 
"The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits executing intellectually disabled people," the lawmakers wrote. "As members of the U.S. House of Representatives, we urge you not to act in contravention to our Constitution. You must not execute Mr. Johnson."
 
 
Johnson was convicted of killing three employees at a convenience store in Columbia, Missouri in 1994. His conviction has been upheld multiple times by courts, but his death sentence was thrown out twice previously, including in 2001 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities was unconstitutional.

"Like slavery and lynching did before it, the death penalty perpetuates cycles of trauma, violence, and state-sanctioned murder in Black and brown communities."
—Reps. Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)

 
In addition to being born with an intellectual disability, Johnson underwent surgery for a benign brain tumor in 2008, after which an MRI showed about 20% of his brain tissue had also been removed.
 
Johnson recently requested that he be executed by firing squad because a lethal injection could induce painful seizures due to scar tissue from the operation, but the Missouri Supreme Court denied his request last month.
 
Bush and Cleaver called on Parson to "move our country towards accountability and healing" by halting the "cruel execution."
 
"The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice," they wrote in their letter regarding Johnson, who is Black. "They are about who has institutional power and who doesn't. Like slavery and lynching did before it, the death penalty perpetuates cycles of trauma, violence, and state-sanctioned murder in Black and brown communities. We urge you to correct these injustices using every tool available, including the power to grant clemency."
 
The lawmakers' call followed a letter sent by Pope Francis to Parson, in which the pope called on the governor to consider that "when violence of all types is restrained... all of society benefits."
 
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) announced over the weekend that it will join with faith leaders and other advocates on Tuesday to hold a statewide vigil for Johnson to "stand in solidarity with Ernest and continue calls to Governor Parson to grant him clemency."
 
More than 23,000 people have signed a petition organized by MADP, which also provided a call script for advocates to call on Parson to halt the execution.
 
 
"Death is not justice, and we should not execute this man," said MADP in the petition.

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