A 19-year-old woman is too young to witness the state of Missouri execute her father, who was sentenced to death for killing a police officer when he was a teen, a federal judge ruled.
Khorry Ramey requested to be present for Kevin Johnson’s final moments, but US District Judge Brian Wimes said in a ruling that execution witnesses need to be at least 21 years old, NBC News reported.
Missouri and Nevada are the only states that require witnesses to be 21, Ramey’s attorneys argued.
“I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments,” Ramey said in a statement, adding that he “has worked very hard to rehabilitate himself in prison. I pray that [Gov. Mike] Parson will give my dad clemency.”
Johnson, now 37, is scheduled to die by lethal injection Nov. 29 for the 2005 killing of Kirkwood Police Officer William McEntee, a crime he committed when he was 19 and Ramey was 2.
He selected his daughter as one of the five people permitted to witness his death, but the Missouri Department of Corrections rejected the request, a move the ACLU argued violates both the First and Fourteenth amendments.
“Missouri executes people, like Mr. Johnson, for crimes committed as adults but before their 21st birthday illustrates the irrationality of the statute’s requirement that execution witnesses not only be adults but also at least 21 years old,” the filing states.
Missing her father’s execution will cause Ramey “irreparable harm,” her attorneys said.
In a court declaration earlier this week, Ramey called Johnson “the most important person in my life.”
Ramey and Johnson have a very close relationship and he is her only living parent, the ACLU said. She witnessed the murder of her mother at the hands of an ex-boyfriend when she was just 4 years old.
With the execution date looming, Johnson’s attorneys are filing appeals to save his life. They admit Johnson’s guilt, but argue that a history of mental illness and argue his age at the time of the crime should warrant court intervention. They also claim racism played a role in his death penalty sentencing — Johnson is black and McEntee was white.
McEntee arrived at Johnson’s home in 2005 to serve an arrest warrant to Johnson, who police believed violated the probation he was on for assaulting his girlfriend.
When McEntee showed up at the house, Johnson’s younger brother, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, 12, ran next door to their grandmother’s house, where he collapsed and began having a seizure.
Johnson testified that McEntee kept the boys’ mother from going into the house to help the seizing boy. Joseph later died at a hospital.
Upon seeing McEntee in the neighborhood later that evening, Johnson approached the officer and shot him twice.
“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,” stated a state petition filed last week by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to the Supreme Court.
With Post Wires