A teenager has been denied permission to watch her father die by lethal injection in Missouri after a judge upheld a law declaring she was too young.
Kevin Johnson, 37, faces execution on Tuesday, November 29 for shooting a police officer in 2005 when he was 19.
His daughter, Corionsa “Khorry” Ramey, was two years old when Johnson was arrested for the murder of William McEntee in Kirkwood, Missouri.
An emergency lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Ms Ramey, now 19, by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ask a federal court to allow him to watch his father’s final moments.
Johnson has put her daughter on a witness list to witness the execution – and she wants to attend.
But Missouri law says no one under the age of 21 can witness an execution.
The ACLU argued the law violated Ms Ramey’s constitutional rights and served no purpose, adding that the age threshold was “unreasonable”.
However, US District Judge Brian Wimes has now ruled against the teenager and said it was in the public interest to “allow states to enforce their laws and administer state prisons without interference from the courts”.
In a written ruling, the judge said the trial failed to demonstrate “unconstitutionality”.
Ms Ramey said in a statement: ‘I am heartbroken that I cannot be with my father in his final moments,’ adding that Johnson has ‘worked very hard to readjust in prison’.
The teenager is now pinning her hopes on Republican Missouri Governor Mike Parson granting clemency to her father.
The ACLU called on the state of Missouri to ‘do good’ through Ms Ramey, tweeting: ‘A federal judge has denied Ramey’s request to witness the execution of his father Kevin Johnson.
“There is no dignity in a state that kills its people – and the state of Missouri can still do the right thing to Khorry if the governor grants his father clemency.”
Johnson’s lawyer, Shawn Nolan, told reporters: “It’s ironic that Kevin was 19 when he committed this crime and they still want to go ahead with this execution, but they won’t allow her daughter, who is now 19, because she is too young.”
Legal offer to stop execution
Johnson’s legal representatives have also filed lawsuits seeking to halt his execution.
They do not dispute his guilt – but say racism affected the decision to seek the death penalty and the jury’s decision to sentence him to death for the murder of Mr McEntee, who was white.
Lawyers also say Johnson had a history of mental illness.
Mr McEntee, a married father of three, was among several officers sent to Johnson’s home to serve an arrest warrant on July 5, 2005, for an alleged probation violation.
Johnson’s 12-year-old brother, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, collapsed and started having a seizure.
He later died in hospital.
When Mr McEntree returned to the area to investigate reports unrelated to the setting off of fireworks, Johnson shot the officer several times.
According to the non-profit campaign group, Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Johnson’s “abusive childhood” and the sudden death of his younger brother led to his “regrettable actions”.
“Kevin Johnson is a loving father and grandfather, even since prison he has been dedicated to being the best father he can be and has remained a positive and unwavering presence in his daughter’s life,” the organization tweeted.
“I would stay by his side and hold his hand”
At a press conference ahead of the judge’s ruling, Ms Ramey said she wanted to watch the execution for “peace of mind” and as part of the grieving process.
She remained close to her father, despite his incarceration.
Ms Ramey said: “I am my father’s closest living relative and he is mine apart from my baby.
“If my father died in hospital, I would stay by his side and hold his hand, praying until he died.”
The nursing assistant traveled to the correctional center in Potosi, Missouri, to introduce her son, Kiaus, to his grandfather after giving birth in September.
“It was a beautiful but bittersweet moment for me because I realized that this might be the only time my dad could hold (his) grandson,” she said.
Ms Ramey’s lawyer, Corene Kendrick, said the issue of someone’s age barring them from witnessing an execution rarely arises.
Nevada is the only other state to have an age limit of 21, while the federal government and other states have no age limit or requirement for attendees to be at least 18 years old.