COLUMBIA, Mo., Nov. 5 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay for Missouri’s planned execution of convicted murderer Ernest Lee Johnson, whose lawyers argued a brain tumor would make lethal injection excruciating.
Johnson, sentenced to death for the 1994 killing of three people, was granted a temporary stay of execution until a lower court rules on his unique situation. He was scheduled to undergo lethal injection on Tuesday.
Court filings by Johnson’s attorneys indicated he is missing 15 to 20 percent of his brain due to surgery in 2008 to have a tumor removed. Part of the tumor remains in his brain and as a result he has brain damage. His lawyers, citing testimony of a doctor and a medical expert, contend he could have seizures during the injection.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office, in a court filing, said Johnson had waited too long to present his argument and asked for the execution to proceed.
The Supreme Court, in an unsigned order, granted the stay request, pending an appeals request in the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 8th Circuit, noting Johnson’s complaint “alleges that Missouri’s method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment (referring to cruel or unusual punishment) as applied to a person with his particular medical condition.”
In a similar situation last year, the Supreme Court halted the execution, in Missouri, of Russell Bucklew, whose rare medical condition could have caused pain if he was executed.