Kevin Johnson is scheduled to be executed today by the State of Missouri for the murder of a police officer. According to court documents Kevin Johnson would fatally shoot Officer William McEntee in 2005. Apparently Kevin Johnson blamed the officer for his brother’s death. Kevin Johnson was at home when a warrant was served on him and his 12 year old brother ran to the house next door. The 12 year old who had major health issues would suffer a cardiac episode and die. Kevin Johnson would later that night shoot and kill Officer William McEntee. Kevin Johnson lawyers do not dispute that he killed the Officer but are trying to get a reprieve saying racism tainted the trial. Also Kevin Johnson 19 year old daughter is not allowed to attend his execution as she does not meet the age requirement
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A Missouri inmate convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis area police officer he blamed in the death of his younger brother was scheduled to be executed Tuesday, barring a last-minute intervention.
Kevin Johnson’s legal team doesn’t deny that he killed Officer William McEntee in 2005, but contended in an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court that he was sentenced to death in part because he is Black. But in a 5-2 ruling late Monday, the state Supreme Court denied a stay.
The U.S. Supreme Court also declined a stay request last week, and Gov. Mike Parson on Monday announced he would not grant clemency.
“The violent murder of any citizen, let alone a Missouri law enforcement officer, should be met only with the fullest punishment state law allows,” Parson, a Republican and a former county sheriff, said in a statement. “Through Mr. Johnson’s own heinous actions, he stole the life of Sergeant McEntee and left a family grieving, a wife widowed, and children fatherless. Clemency will not be granted.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if other appeals were planned. A message left early Tuesday with Johnson’s lawyer was not immediately returned.
Johnson, 37, faces execution Tuesday evening at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He would be the second Missouri man put to death in 2022 and the 17th nationally.
McEntee, 43, was a 20-year veteran of the police department in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb. The father of three was among the officers sent to Johnson’s home on July 5, 2005, to serve a warrant for his arrest. Johnson was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend, and police believed he had violated probation.
Johnson saw officers arrive and awoke his 12-year-old brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, who ran to a house next door. Once there, the boy, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and began having a seizure.
Johnson testified at trial that McEntee kept his mother from entering the house to aid his brother, who died a short time later at a hospital.
That same evening, McEntee returned to the neighborhood to check on unrelated reports of fireworks being shot off. A court filing from the Missouri attorney general’s office said McEntee was in his car questioning three children when Johnson shot him through the open passenger-side window, striking the officer’s leg, head and torso. Johnson then got into the car and took McEntee’s gun.
The court filing said Kevin Johnson walked down the street and told his mother that McEntee “let my brother die” and “needs to see what it feels like to die.” Though she told him, “That’s not true,” Kevin Johnson returned to the shooting scene and found McEntee alive, on his knees near the patrol car. Johnson shot McEntee in the back and in the head, killing him.
Johnson’s lawyers have previously asked the courts to intervene for other reasons, including a history of mental illness and his age — 19 — at the time of the crime. Courts have increasingly moved away from sentencing teen offenders to death since the Supreme Court in 2005 banned the execution of offenders who were younger than 18 at the time of their crime.
But a broader focus of appeals has been on alleged racial bias. In October, St. Louis Circuit Judge Mary Elizabeth Ott appointed a special prosecutor to review the case. The special prosecutor, E.E. Keenan, filed a motion earlier this month to vacate the death sentence, stating that race played a “decisive factor” in the death sentence.
Ott declined to set aside the death penalty.
Keenan told the state Supreme Court that former St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s office handled five cases involving the deaths of police officers during his 28 years in office. McCulloch sought the death penalty in the four cases involving Black defendants, but did not seek death in the one case where the defendant was white, the file said.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Crane responded that “a fair jury determined he deserves the death penalty.”
McCulloch does not have a listed phone number and could not be reached for comment.
Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter, Khorry Ramey, had sought to witness the execution, but a state law prohibits anyone under 21 from observing the process. Courts have declined to step in on Ramey’s behalf.
The U.S. saw 98 executions in 1999 but the number has dropped dramatically in recent years. Missouri already has two scheduled for early 2023. Convicted killer Scott McLaughlin is scheduled to die on Jan. 3, and convicted killer Leonard Taylor’s execution is set for Feb. 7.
Kevin Johnson Execution
Kevin Johnson – who murdered a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer in 2005 but claimed racial bias in his prosecution – was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection.
Kevin Johnson, 37, was pronounced dead at 7:40 p.m. CT. He didn’t give a final statement, according to Missouri Department of Corrections spokesperson Karen Pojmann.
The execution went ahead after the US Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution. Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, according to the court’s website.
On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court had denied Johnson’s request for a stay after hearing arguments that racial discrimination played a role in his prosecution.
Mary McEntee, the widow of Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee, said her husband was killed on his hands and knees in front of people he dedicated his life to serve.
“When he left for work that day, we could not imagine that he would be executed by someone he gave his life to protect,” she said at a media briefing Tuesday evening. “Bill didn’t get to fight for his life. He didn’t have the chance to be heard before a jury, to decide whether he would live or die.”
She also thanked the prosecutors who put in the “hard work and endless hours … for justice for Bill.
The execution was not witnessed by Johnson’s 19-year-old daughter, who had failed this month to get a federal court to prevent the state from executing her father unless she was permitted to be a witness. Missouri law bars people younger than 21 from witnessing the proceeding.
Pojmann said Kevin Johnson met with his daughter earlier Tuesday.
On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in two requests for a stay: one by Johnson, who was Black, and the other by a special prosecutor appointed at the request of the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which secured Johnson’s conviction on a first-degree murder charge and death sentence for the murder of McEntee.
Both requests sought a stay so claims of racial prejudice could be heard by the St. Louis County Circuit Court, which previously denied a motion by the special prosecutor to vacate Johnson’s conviction, saying there was not enough time before Johnson’s scheduled execution to hold a hearing.
“There simply is nothing here that Johnson has not raised (and that this Court has not rejected) before and, even if there were, Kevin Johnson offers no basis for raising any new or re-packaged versions of these oft-rejected claims at this late date,” the Monday ruling said.
Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, also on Monday denied a request for clemency from Johnson’s attorneys.
“Mr. Johnson has received every protection afforded by the Missouri and United States Constitutions, and Mr. Johnson’s conviction and sentence remain for his horrendous and callous crime,” Parson said in a statement. “The State of Missouri will carry out Mr. Johnson’s sentence according to the Court’s order and deliver justice.”
A defense attorney for Kevin Johnson decried Monday’s state Supreme Court ruling as a “complete disregard for the law in this case.”
“The Prosecutor in this case had requested that the Court stop the execution based on the compelling evidence he uncovered this past month establishing that Mr. Johnson was sentenced to death because he is Black,” lawyer Shawn Nolan said in a statement. “The Missouri Supreme Court unconscionably refused to simply pause Mr. Johnson’s execution date so that the Prosecutor could present this evidence to the lower court, who refused to consider it in the first instance given the press of time.”
Meantime, attorneys for Kevin Johnson argued in court records that racial discrimination played a role in his prosecution, pointing in their motion for a stay to “long-standing and pervasive racial bias” in St. Louis County prosecutors’ “handling of this case and other death-eligible prosecutions, including the office’s decisions of which offense to charge, which penalty to seek, and which jurors to strike.”
Per their request, the prosecuting attorney sought the death penalty against four of five defendants tried for the killing of a police officer while in office – all of them Black, while the fifth was White. In the case with a White defendant, Johnson’s request says, the prosecutor invited defense attorneys to submit mitigation evidence that might persuade the office not to seek death – an opportunity not afforded the Black defendants.
Additionally, they pointed to a study by a University of North Carolina political scientist of 408 death-eligible homicide prosecutions during this prosecutor’s tenure that found the office largely sought the death penalty when the victims were White.
Those claims appear supported by a special prosecutor, who was appointed to the case last month after the St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney’s Office cited a conflict of interest. The special prosecutor, Edward E.E. Keenan, similarly “determined that racist prosecution techniques infected Mr. Johnson’s conviction and death sentence,” he wrote in his own request for a stay.
The special prosecutor found “clear and convincing evidence of racial bias by the trial prosecutor,” he wrote in the request, citing similar evidence to that listed by Johnson’s attorneys in their request for a stay.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office argued against a stay, saying the claims were without merit. The special prosecutor’s “unproven claims,” the AG’s office said in a brief, do not amount to a concession of wrongdoing by the state, which stands by the conviction.
“The McEntee family has waited long enough for justice,” the brief said, “and every day longer that they must wait is a day they are denied the chance to finally make peace with their loss.”
Bob McCulloch, the longtime St. Louis prosecuting attorney who was voted out of office in 2018 after 27 years, has denied he treated Black and White defendants differently.
“Show me a similar case where the victim was Black and I didn’t ask for death,” he was quoted as saying by St. Louis Public Radio earlier this month about his time in office. “And then we have something to talk about. But that case just doesn’t exist.”
Kevin Johnson was sentenced to die for the July 5, 2005, murder of McEntee, 43, who was called to Johnson’s neighborhood in response to a report of fireworks.
Earlier that day, Johnson’s 12-year-old brother had died after having a seizure at their family’s home, according to court records. Police were there at the time of the seizure, seeking to serve a warrant against Kevin Johnson, then 19, for a probation violation.
Kevin Johnson blamed the police, including McEntee, for his brother’s death. And when McEntee returned to the neighborhood later that day, Johnson approached the sergeant’s patrol car, accused him of killing his brother and opened fire.
He left behind a wife, a daughter and two sons, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.