A federal court panel will hear today arguments over whether a man convicted of killing three people at a Columbia Casey’s in 1994 can be executed by lethal injection.
The attorneys for Ernest Lee Johnson say because of a 2008 operation that removed part of a brain tumor, he could suffer seizures if subjected to a lethal injection of pentobarbital. A court in November ruled that his case should be considered, and blocked his execution hours before it was to happen.
Attorney Jeremy Weis represents Johnson.
“There is a substantial likelihood the drugs as they would be introduced to Mr. Johnson would cause him severe pain beyond what the 8th Amendment would allow,” said Weis.
The state counters that Johnson’s claim was raised after the statute of limitations on that constitutional argument. It also says there is no evidence Missouri’s execution protocol causes pain, and bases that argument in part on the statements of witnesses of the 18 executions that have been carried out under that protocol since November, 2013.
The court could rule at any time, and whatever ruling it issues is likely to be appealed.
Johnson was sentenced to death for murdering Mary Bratcher, Mable Scruggs, and Fred Jones at a Columbia Casey’s in 1994.