Cecil Johnson Jr.

30 Years Tennessee Death Row Too Long

compiled by Lewis Loflin

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was nearly closing time at Bob Bell's Nashville convenience store July 5, 1980. In walked Cecil C. Johnson Jr., who lived in the neighborhood and had been a customer for some time. Within a few minutes, three people were dead, including a 12-year-old boy who was the son of the market owner and apparently was helping his dad run the register.

Johnson, 23 at the time and now 53, is to be executed early Wednesday for three counts of murder resulting from a robbery that summer night that netted the holdup man about $200. He'll be the sixth person put to death in Tennessee since 2000, unless a judge agrees with an effort by his attorneys to ask for a stay of execution. Ref. www.wsmv.com Nov. 27, 2009

Tennessee: DR inmate Cecil Johnson Jr. says 29-year delay is cruel and unusual. The man scheduled to be executed in Nashville on Wednesday morning has asked for a stay of execution, saying to kill him by lethal injection after 29 years on death row is cruel and unusual punishment.

Cecil Johnson Jr. was convicted in 1981 for a triple killing at Bob Bell's Market the previous year and was given 3 death sentences by a jury. It wasn't until 2008 that his legal options were exhausted and an execution date was set.

His attorney, Jim Thomas, argued in the complaint filed in federal court Wednesday that the execution should be stayed in part because "the state's manipulations and conduct" have delayed the case. Johnson, now 53, was 23 when he was given the death sentence. Gov. Phil Bredesen denied Johnson's plea for clemency this week.

Thomas said that all the delays were caused by courts that failed to rule on Johnson's case for up to three years at a time after hearing some of the arguments, and by the state's attorneys. "Mr. Johnson has spent this time in mortal suspense, constantly waiting for that uncertain day on which he will be strapped to a chair or a gurney and killed a day that could arrive next week, next month, next year, but also maybe never," court filings said. "Being forced to persist in a state of constant apprehension of imminent death for nearly three decades amounts to torture."

A panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Johnson's appeal in a 2-1 decision. Source: The Tennessean, Nov. 28, 2009

Poor baby. He was executed on Wednesday. He should have been executed no more than two years after his conviction.

Death Row Facts in Tennessee

Number of Death Row: 89
Numbers Breakdown: 87 males and 2 females
48 White, 38 African Americans, 1 Hispanic, 1 Native American, 1 Asian

Where are they from?
57 inmates are from the largest metropolitan counties of
Shelby (36), Davidson (11), Knox (7), and Hamilton (4)

25 inmates were convicted in East Tennessee
21 inmates were convicted in Middle Tennessee
43 inmates were convicted in West Tennessee

Oldest on Death Row:
John Henretta, 2/12/43, 66 years old
Convicted in Bradley County
On Death Row since April 2002

Youngest Female on Death Row:
Christa Pike, 3/10/76, 33 years old
Convicted in Knox County
On Death Row since March 1996

Youngest Male on Death Row:
Devin Banks, 8/2/83, 26 years old
Convicted in Shelby County
On Death Row since April 2005

Longest Time on Death Row:
Donald Strouth, 1/9/59, 50 years old
Convicted in Sullivan County
On Death Row since September 1978

Last Person Sentenced to Death Row:
Lemaricus Davidson, 6/13/81, 28 years old
Convicted in Knox County
On Death Row since October 2009

Most male inmates are housed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, but for security reasons, some of them can be housed at the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg. Two inmates with the death penalty are currently housed at Morgan County.

Female inmates sentenced to death are housed at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville.

The following number of inmates have multiple death sentences: 12 inmates with two death sentences, four inmates with three death sentences, one inmate with four death sentences, and one inmate with seven death sentences.

In January 2007 five blacks most convicted felons carjacked and murdered a white Knoxville couple. This came at a time of hysterical press coverage over Duke Lacrosse lynching. Rage exploded over press refusal to cover the Knoxville killings. The press claimed concern over the Knoxville killing was racism and white supremacy.

The press has created a hysterical circus when three white men were wrongly accused of raping a black prostitute. Yet virtually nothing on the brutal Knoxville carjacking, rape, and murder to two white kids. Even my local paper the Bristol Herald Courier wouldn't cover the killings 90 miles away while running reports on nonsense across the country. They were angry when I called them on it. They started carrying the reports.

Regardless of the level of violence inflicted on the white victims the five members of the gang dodged the death penalty they deserved.

Controversy over drug use by the trial judge led to call for new trials. This was rejected.