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Missouri bishops’ statement on execution of Ernest Johnson

JEFFERSON CITY — Despite pleas for mercy from the Missouri Catholic Conference and thousands of people, the state of Missouri executed Ernest Johnson on Oct. 5, 2021. Two members of Congress, former Missouri governor Bob Holden, and four retired judges were the latest to add their voices in opposition to the execution.

Following his execution, the Catholic bishops of Missouri issued a statement expressing their disappointment with the situation. “Ernest Lee Johnson’s crimes were heinous and deserved to be punished, yet as Missouri has shown itself to be a pro-life state, we should stop using the death penalty as a means of dealing with violent crimes,” the bishops said in their statement. “The death penalty degrades us as a society and teaches our children that violence is the proper response to violence,” they stated. Instead, they asked that people of good will seek “alternatives” to the death penalty for violent criminals.

The bishops’ statement followed an appeal by Pope Francis expressing his support of mercy for Johnson. In the letter, the pontiff urged Gov. Parson to grant the inmate “some appropriate form of clemency” based on his “humanity and the sacredness of all human life.” The Missouri Catholic Conference sent a clemency application in September to the governor in the name of civic and religious leaders asking for mercy for Mr. Johnson.