A federal judge has denied the emergency petition brought by a 19-year-old woman to attend the imminent execution of her father, Kevin Johnson, Jr., in Missouri.
Corionsa “Khorry” Ramey brought an emergency challenge to a Missouri law that bars people under 21 from witnessing an execution. Her father’s execution is scheduled for November 29.
“I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments,” said Khorry Ramey. “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.”
The emergency filing argued that Missouri’s age threshold was arbitrary and not reasonably related to prison operations or safety — and violated Ms. Ramey’s constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
At 19, Ms. Ramey is the same age her father was when he committed the crime that resulted in his death sentence. In the order, U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes of the Western District of Missouri wrote that while “the Court does not discount [Ms. Ramey’s] allegations of emotional harm and does not dispute they are irreparable, both in a personal sense and a legal sense” if she were not able to witness the execution, he concluded that the state’s law does not violate Ms. Ramey’s constitutional rights.
“We are extremely disappointed in the decision upholding this irrational and illogical law, which only serves to gratuitously punish Ms. Ramey,” said Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, and a lawyer for Ms. Ramey. “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.”
On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court will consider two motions to stay Mr. Johnson’s execution because of evidence of pervasive racial bias during his prosecution. One motion to stay the execution is being brought by Mr. Johnson’s legal team, and the other is being brought by a prosecuting attorney acting on behalf of the St. Louis Prosecutor’s Office.
“We are heartbroken for Khorry. Every aspect of this case is a tragedy, but we promise Khorry that we are not done fighting for her father,” said Shawn Nolan, an attorney for Kevin Johnson. “On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear both the prosecutor and Kevin’s defense team argue that this execution cannot proceed as scheduled, because the conviction and sentence were infected by racism. We hope the Court will grant these motions to stay the execution and give the legal system a chance to right these egregious wrongs.”