A federal judge has denied Khorry Ramey’s request to watch her father’s execution.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency petition on Monday to let Ramey witness the execution of her father, Kevin Johnson. Ramey, a 19-year-old from Kirkwood, doesn’t meet Missouri’s age requirement for execution witnesses, which requires witnesses to be at least 21.
Ramey said she wanted to be present for her father’s execution to help with her grieving process. If he were dying in a hospital, she said, she would “sit by his bed holding his hand and praying for him until his death.”
“I am heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments,” Ramey said Friday. “My dad is the most important person in my life.”
Ramey’s suit claimed Missouri’s age requirement violated her constitutional right to equal protection under the law and her First Amendment right to freedom of association. It argued Missouri’s age threshold was arbitrary and not reasonably related to prison operations or safety.
In an order on Friday, U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes wrote Ramey failed to show Missouri’s statute violated her rights.
“The court does not discount [Ramey’s] allegations of emotional harm and does not dispute they are irreparable, both in a personal sense and a legal sense,” Wimes wrote. However, without a clear constitutional violation, Ramey’s irreparable harm is not dispositive, he continued.
Ramey and Johnson have maintained a close relationship during his incarceration. She recently took her newborn son, Kiaus, to visit Johnson in prison.
Johnson received the death penalty for the 2005 murder of William McEntee, a Kirkwood police officer, husband and father of three. Ramey was 2 at the time of Johnson’s crime. Johnson was 19.
“If 19 is not old enough to witness an execution, then the state should spare Mr. Johnson’s life for what he did when he was 19,” Ramey’s lawyer Corene Kendrick said in a statement.
Johnson is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday. However, Johnson’s execution may be delayed after the Missouri Supreme Court hears oral arguments over a special prosecutor's claims that racial bias played a part in Johnson’s conviction and judgment. The arguments will be held Monday.
The court will consider two motions to stay Johnson’s execution: one filed by a special prosecutor who investigated Johnson’s case for unconstitutionality; another brought by Johnson’s legal team.
“We are heartbroken for Khorry,” Shawn Nolan, one of Johnson’s attorneys said. “Every aspect of this case is a tragedy, but we promise Khorry that we are not done fighting for her father.”
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