Federal death row inmate seeks stay citing intellectual disability

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Jan. 9 (UPI) —¬†Federal death row inmate Corey Johnson on Friday asked an appeals court to issue a stay of execution allowing his attorneys to argue in court that he’s intellectually disabled and thus shouldn’t be put to death.

Johnson, 52, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., for his role in a Richmond Va., drug gang tied to 10 murders. He’s one of three people on federal death row set to be executed next week.

In a filing with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Johnson’s attorneys said his trial lawyers questioned a psychologist who used outdated standards to conclude that he was not intellectually disabled.

His current lawyers called for a hearing to present evidence, including test results showing he had an IQ of 69 at age 16 and expert evaluations, to show that that conclusion was incorrect.

“The government is taking advantage of procedural barriers to press forward with the unconstitutional execution of Corey Johnson, a person whose intellectual disability cannot reasonably be disputed,” said Donald Salzman, one of Johnson’s attorneys.

“Three of the country’s leading intellectual disability experts have evaluated Corey, reviewed his extensive records, and applied accepted diagnostic criteria to determine that he is a person with intellectual disability. Allowing Corey to be executed would be a grave miscarriage of justice.”

Johnson was sentenced to death in 1993 for 10 murders tied to his participation in a Richmond, Va., drug gang. Accomplices James Roane and Richard Tipton also received the death penalty for their involvement.

Johnson’s lawyers said a childhood of abuse and neglect led to intellectual disability, and at age 13, his mother put him in a facility for children with intellectual and emotional impairments.

The lawyers also described Johnson’s punishment as “arbitrary” because another accomplice, Vernon Thomas, received a life sentence because of his intellectual disability.

The Trump administration has carried out 10 executions since July, when it resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus. Lisa Montgomery is scheduled to die Tuesday and Dustin Higgs on Friday.


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