Kevin “KJ” Johnson, a Black youth, was sentenced to death for the killing of a white Kirkwood police officer, William McEntee, a crime committed when he was 19 years old. Despite many erroneous and unfair court rulings, grossly ineffective counsel, and racist prosecutorial policies, KJ remains on Missouri’s death row, and on May 11th, the Missouri Attorney General motioned the Missouri Supreme Court for an execution date.
On the evening of July 5, 2005, Kirkwood police sought to serve a warrant at a family residence in Meacham Park. Kevin wasn’t there but observed the events from a neighboring home. While the police were present, Joseph “Bam Bam” Long, Kevin’s twelve-year-old brother, suffered a seizure and collapsed. The police were indifferent to the medical emergency, saying it was necessary to search the house. Witnesses attest that police officer William McEntee held back Joseph’s mother from attending to her child. An ambulance later arrived, and Joseph was taken to the hospital, where he died.
Two hours later, McEntee responded to a report of fireworks in the neighborhood, and a chance encounter with Kevin ensued. Kevin said, “you killed my brother,” before shooting McEntee multiple times.
The first trial. Robert P. McCulloch, the Prosecuting Attorney of St. Louis County personally tried the case; an unusual move thought to be motivated by the fact his own father was a police officer killed in the line of duty. McCulloch sought the death penalty in Kevin's case, but was unable to even secure a conviction; the jury hung, favoring, 10-2, a lesser, non-capital, charge.
The second trial. In the second trial, the deck was stacked against Kevin from the outset. McCulloch used his peremptory strikes to eliminate Black jurors and ensure a predominately white jury. Despite being a clear Batson violation, objections by counsel were ignored by the judge. This time McColloch got his capital conviction; and again the system failed Kevin. His court appointed lawyers failed to put before the jury substantial evidence that would have mitigated the crime.
The appeals. The constitution guarantees equal justice, but state prosecutors have vigorously and unabashedly defended McCulloch’s successful effort to eliminate Black peoples from Kevin’s jury. The federal judiciary, which has a duty to enforce the constitution, has displayed a chilling indifference to the unfairness perpetrated in state court, first by assigning a biased judge and then denying Kevin even the right to appeal his claims to the Court of Appeals.
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is committed to uplifting the humanity, life, and need of compassion, support, and empathy for Kevin, who has many family, friends, and supporters who love and value him.
We are asking Governor Parson to grant clemency to Kevin Johnson and to commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Learn more about Kevin, continue to take action, and stay in touch with us at MADP by visiting www.madpmo.org
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