A Missouri prosecutor says a Black man's death sentence was influenced by racism, but the state won't spare his life

Kevin Johnson and the Missouri Supreme Court building
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled against a request to stop Kevin Johnson's execution.AP; AP
  • A Missouri special prosecutor argued that a Black man's death sentence was influenced by racism.

  • The state's top court, however, will allow his scheduled execution to proceed on Tuesday.

  • Kevin Johnson, 37, was sentenced to death for killing a police officer when he was 19 years old.

Missouri's top court won't spare the life of a Black man whose death sentence a special prosecutor found was influenced by racism.

The state's Supreme Court ruled on Monday night that the execution of 37-year-old Kevin Johnson can move forward on Tuesday night.

Edward Keenan, a special prosecutor appointed by a state court to look into the case, had argued that Missouri's handling of Johnson's case was racially tinged. Prosecutors had struck Black people from the jury pool in one of his trials and ultimately sought the death sentence for Johnson but not for white defendants accused of similar crimes.

"The State of Missouri is poised to execute Kevin Johnson tonight, not for his crimes, but because he is Black," said Shawn Nolan, Johnson's attorney, in a statement shared with Insider. "It is a basic premise of our criminal justice system that the law punishes people for what they do, not who they are."

"But since the Missouri courts and governor do not seem to understand that, we have appealed to the United States Supreme Court," Nolan added.

Johnson, who is a Black man, was sentenced to death in 2015 for killing a police officer when he was 19 years old. On Friday, a federal judge had ruled that his daughter, now 19 herself, can't attend his execution because she's too young.

Keenan did not immediately responded to Insider's request for comment.

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