Missouri Executes Man for Murder of Girl, 6

3 Supreme Court justices dissented to Johnny Johnson decision
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 1, 2023 7:17 PM CDT
Missouri Man Executed for Murder of Girl, 6
People look at the makeshift memorial in front of the home of Cassandra ''Casey'' Williamson, July 29, 2002, in Valley Park, Mo.   (AP Photo/Diane L. Wilson, File)

A man who abducted a 6-year-old Missouri girl and beat her to death at an abandoned factory decades ago was put to death Tuesday evening, shortly after the US Supreme Court rejected a request to block the lethal injection over arguments he was mentally incompetent. Johnny Johnson, 45, received a a lethal dose of pentobarbital at a state prison in Bonne Terre and was pronounced dead at 6:33pm CDT, authorities said. He was convicted of the July 2002 killing of Casey Williamson in the small St. Louis-area suburb of Valley Park. Johnson had expressed remorse in a brief handwritten statement released by the Department of Corrections hours before the execution, the AP reports. "God Bless. Sorry to the people and family I hurt," Johnson's statement said.

The top court, with three justices dissenting, said earlier in a statement that it was rejecting the request to stay the execution plans. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was joined by two other justices in the dissent. In recent appeals, Johnson's attorneys have said the inmate has had delusions about the devil using his death to bring about the end of the world. "The Court today paves the way to execute a man with documented mental illness before any court meaningfully investigates his competency to be executed," Sotomayor and the other dissenting justices wrote in a statement when the stay was rejected by the wider court. "There is no moral victory in executing someone who believes Satan is killing him to bring about the end of the world."

The girl's disappearance from her hometown of Valley Park on July 26, 2002, set off a frantic search before her body was ultimately found. Casey's mother had been best friends in childhood with Johnson's older sister. After Johnson attended a barbecue the night before the killing, Casey's family let him sleep on a couch in the home where they also were sleeping. In the morning, Johnson lured the girl—still in her nightgown—to the abandoned factory, even carrying her on his shoulders on the walk to the dilapidated site, according to court documents. When he tried to sexually assault her, Casey screamed and tried to break free, they said. He then killed her with a brick and a large rock, then washed off in the nearby Meramec River. Johnson confessed that same day to the crimes, according to authorities.

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At Johnson's trial, defense lawyers had presented testimony showing that their client—an ex-convict who had been released from a state psychiatric facility six months before the crime—had stopped taking his schizophrenia medication and was acting strangely in the days before the slaying. In June, the Missouri Supreme Court denied an appeal seeking to block the execution on arguments that Johnson had schizophrenia that prevented him from understanding the link between his crime and the punishment. (More Missouri stories.)

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