The State Supreme Court is sparing a convicted killer the death penalty, at least for a while. Ernest Lee Johnson used a hammer, a screwdriver, and a gun to beat and kill three employees of a Columbia convenience store in 1994. A jury found him guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to death – despite the fact his mental capacity had come into question. Since the triple killing and the death sentence, the Legislature has passed a law banning the execution of the mentally retarded. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a case involving a mentally retarded convict that the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for someone with diminished mental culpability. While Johnson’s conviction stands, a new penalty phase of the trial will be held.