Death Row killer to be executed tonight as US judge ignores Popes clemency plea

A Death Row triple-murderer will be executed tonight despite a plea from the Pope to spare his life.

Ernest Johnson was handed a death sentence for killing three Missouri corner shop employees during a robbery in February 1994.

Johnson came home covered in blood, having told his crack dealer he would be robbing the store.

The addict's victims were 46-year-old Mary Bratcher, Fred Jones (58) and Mabel Scruggs, 57.

Each died from head wounds consistent with the bloody hammer found at the scene.

Pope Francis made a striking intervention in the case last week via a letter to Missouri Governor Michael Parson.

Francis's assistant Archbishop Christophe Pierre wrote: “His Holiness wishes to place before you the simple fact of Mr Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life.

“Is not a universal recognition of our sacred human dignity the best possible defense for society against the war and violence in our world?”

The letter stated "grave crimes such as his deserve grave punishment", but urged Mr Parson not to give the death penalty partly due to Johnson's “doubtful intellectual capacity".

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It also quoted Pope Francis' assertion, "if I do not deny the dignity of the worst criminals, I will not deny human dignity to anyone.”

Yet Mr Parson confirmed the execution will go ahead as planned.

The Republican governor said in a statement yesterday night: “The state is prepared to deliver justice and carry out the lawful sentence Mr. Johnson received in accordance with the Missouri Supreme Court’s order."

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Johnson asked to be executed by firing squad instead of lethal injection because he fears the chemicals could cause painful seizures, The New York Post reported.

Missouri's Supreme Court rejected that request.

Johnson is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, 5 October at 6pm local time (midnight UK).

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