Convicted Killer Back in Court

1 decade 2 years 1 month ago Thursday, March 29 2007 Mar 29, 2007 Thursday, March 29, 2007 4:21:19 PM CDT March 29, 2007 in News

The Missouri Supreme Court overturned Earnest Lee Johnson's two previous death sentences.

Johnson's lawyer said his client is mentally retarded, so the jury should not sentence Johnson to death.

"Under Missouri law, if he is mentally retarded, you can not put a mentally retarded person to death," explained defense attorney Tim Cisar. "So that would automatically disqualify him from the death sentence. So it would be automatic life without parole."

However, Boone County prosecutor Kevin Crane presented evidence which, he said, showed Johnson tried to cover up the murders. Crane showed pictures of the inside of Casey's General Store and a diagram of the store to the jury. Crane also showed where police found the victims and blood spatters.

After Johnson's conviction in 1995, the state Supreme Court overturned the death penalty because his original lawyer failed to introduce evidence of Johnson's drug use. In 1999, another jury convicted Johnson and again recommended the death penalty. But, the Supreme Court also overturned that death sentence, because of questions about his mental capacity.

The victims' relatives just want justice to be served.

"It's not going to bring my mom back. So what am I supposed to say? I don't know," said one victim's daughter, Lorrie Heichelbech. "I don't know how I would feel on that. I think, if you do a crime, you should get what you deserve. And if somebody beats somebody to death with a hammer, they should probably get what they deserve."

The latest penalty phase of the trial is expected to last the rest of this week. Jurors from Pettis County will decide the case in Boone County Circuit Court.

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