ACLU Sues to Let Kevin Johnson’s Daughter Watch His Execution

Khorry Ramey, 19, says if her father was old enough to be sentenced to death, she’s old enough to bear witness

click to enlarge Khorry Ramey, 19, with her newborn son. She is now the same age her father was when he killed Sgt. William McEntee. - SARAH LOVETT
SARAH LOVETT
Khorry Ramey, 19, with her newborn son. She is now the same age her father was when he killed Sgt. William McEntee.
The daughter of a Missouri death-row inmate wants to witness her father’s final moments. But Missouri law says she’s too young, so she’s asking a federal court to intervene and allow her to watch her father’s execution.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday filed an emergency motion on behalf of Khorry Ramey. The suit seeks to allow Ramey to watch her father, Kevin Johnson, be put to death by legal injection next Tuesday.

Missouri law bars anyone under age 21 to be present for executions. Ramey is 19.

In the suit, Ramey asks the court to consider that her father, who was 19 when he killed Kirkwood Sgt. William McEntee, was old enough to receive the death penalty for the crime he committed as a teenager. Yet she, at the same age, cannot be present for his execution.

“If my father were dying in the hospital, I would sit by his bed holding his hand and praying for him until his death, both as a source of support for him, and as a support for me as a necessary part of my grieving process and for my peace of mind,” Ramey said in a statement.

Johnson, who is now 37, has remained involved in his daughter’s life during his time behind bars. They communicate and visit regularly. Through the years, they have talked about school report cards, Ramey’s dream of becoming a nurse, and, on occasion, bickered about boys — just like every father and daughter would, Ramey said in an interview with the Riverfront Times last month.

“Even though he’s been incarcerated my whole life, it’s almost like he’s still been here,” Ramey said.

Ramey was 2 years old when Johnson shot and killed McEntee in Meacham Park, a predominantly-Black neighborhood in Kirkwood. Johnson has often referred to Ramey as “his sanity.”
click to enlarge Kevin Johnson with his daughter, Khorry Ramey. - COURTESY RACHEL BEE
COURTESY RACHEL BEE
Kevin Johnson with his daughter, Khorry Ramey.
Johnson is Ramey’s only living parent. When Ramey was 4, she witnessed her mother’s murder. An ex-boyfriend shot and killed her mother as she and Ramey walked home from the Kirkwood Wal-Mart.

In Ramey’s suit, the American Civil Liberties Union asserts that the state statute barring execution witnesses younger than 21 violates Ramey’s rights under the 14th Amendment.

The amendment ensures equal protection under the law. Ramey’s suit asserts that Missouri's state statute requiring witnesses to be at least 21 years old discriminates against adults between ages 18 and 21 because of their age.

The suit also claims Missouri’s statute violates Ramey’s First Amendment right to freedom of association, and that witnessing her father’s execution deprives her of her right to associate with her father.

“The Missouri law barring Ms. Ramey from attending her father’s execution is illogical and irrational,” Corene Kendrick, Ramey’s attorney, said in a statement. “If the State of Missouri thinks that her father’s actions when he was 19 make him mature enough to warrant execution, then a 19-year-old should be mature enough to witness that execution.”

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About The Author

Monica Obradovic

Monica Obradovic is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times.
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