KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ernest Johnson became the seventh person executed in the U.S. this year, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to grant a stay early Tuesday night.
Johnson, 61, was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m., accord to Karen Pojmann, communications director for the Missouri Department of Corrections.
There were five witnesses for Johnson and seven, including at least one reporter, for the state.
Jim Salter, the Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution, said Johnson mouthed words to his family as the process began.
Salter also said Johnson's breathing became labored and his cheeks puffed out, but there were no visible signs of distress.
Johnson refused a sedative at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
His final meal included two bacon cheeseburgers, onion rings, two strawberry milk shakes and one large pizza according to Pojmann.
The prison was notified at 5:16 p.m. all petitions had been denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Johnson was convicted of a triple murder that took place in 1994. He robbed a convenience store and attacked several store clerks in the process, killing three.
Those murdered were Mary Bratcher, Mable Scruggs and Fred Jones.
However, Johnson's attorney lobbied against his execution, citing his low IQ.
"Even the state's expert says he is of borderline intellectual disability," Jeremy Weis, Johnson's attorney, previously told KSHB 41 News.
If Johnson did have an intellectual disability, his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"They were not going to execute anyone who was intellectually disabled. So how is it happening to Mr. Johnson today? It's not fair. It's not right," Latahra Smith, a volunteer with Missourians for Alternatives to the Death penalty said.
An number of people called for Johnson to be spared, among them Pope Francis, Cori Bush and Emmanuel Cleaver. A petition with 23,000 signatures was given to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to try and get him to grant clemency.
However, Parson released a statement Monday stating he would not intervene.
The prison has an area for protesters outside the prison and 59 people gathered there tonight.
Local opponents of the death penalty began to gather at the corner of 39th street and Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, just as the United States Supreme Court decided not to intervene in the execution of Ernest Johnson.
"There is a grief in my heart today for Mr. Johnson and there is an anger against our governor," Rose Rone, one of Johnson's supporters said.
Following Johnson's death, some want executions eliminated as a form of punishment.
"There have been discussed alternatives out there and so we should implement those instead of this and look for ways of rehabilitation for those who have done these things," Chelsea Sims, with Rockhurst VOICES for Justice said.
Johnson was the first person executed in Missouri since 2020.