Jury Deliberating in Johnson Sentencing

1 decade 2 years 3 weeks ago Thursday, March 29 2007 Mar 29, 2007 Thursday, March 29, 2007 4:34:34 PM CDT March 29, 2007 in News

A key defense witness told jurors on Thursday Johnson is not fit to receive the death penalty.

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing a mentally retarded defendant is cruel and unusual punishment.

By telling jurors that Johnson is mentally retarded, the defense is trying to save his life.

"I believe that Ernest Johnson has mental retardation," said defense witness, psychologist Denis Keyes.

If jurors believe Johnson is retarded, he will spend the rest of his life in prison instead of being executed. But Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane argued Johnson is not retarded.

"No mental health professional diagnosed Mr. Johnson as being mentally retarded until you," Crane told Keyes.

Crane told jurors the defense's expert witness has an agenda because he is an advocate against the death penalty.

Jurors will have to decide if Johnson is mentally retarded before they determine his sentence.

Keyes also testified in the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case that eventually made it unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded defendants.

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