Thursday, June 23, 2005

May 25, 2005

...(he wanted Oreo pie, but they were out)...

Last Meal: Johnson ate his traditional last meal Monday with his attorneys. He had ribs, pulled pork, sauteed mushrooms, soda and chocolate cheesecake (he wanted Oreo pie, but they were out). For his attorneys, he ordered pizza.

The skinny: Johnson was executed for stomping an 82-year-old woman to death in 1985.

More skinny: A newspaper delivery boy noticed the home of the 82-year-old victim on fire and roused a neighbor to call police. He returned but could not enter the home due to the fire and smoke. Firemen were able to put out the fire in about a half hour. The 82-year-old was found 5 feet from the front door with broken bones on her nose and cheek and 20 fractured ribs. Her larnyx and spine were also fractured.

An autopsy revealed that she died as a result of these injuries and not fire or smoke inhalation. A dispatch was sent out that Johnson was a suspect in several fires in the area. Johnson was seen by officers watching the firemen fight the fire and was arrested for Public Intoxication. In custody, Johnson initially denied any involvement, but admitted setting 4 recent fires in the area.

During a later interrogation, Johnson was asked if by killing the woman he was trying to join his friend on death row. Johnson became emotional and gave a full confession.

The liver saga: Johnson drew national attention in recent weeks when he asked for at least a delay of his execution to determine whether he could donate a section of his liver to his 48-year-old sister, who suffers from nonalcoholic cirrhosis.

Gov. Daniels said he did not question Johnson’s sincerity. “If his proposal had turned out to create a clear, demonstrated medical advantage to his sister, I might well have considered a brief postponement to seek a way to fulfill the request,” Daniels said in his statement. “The advice of medical experts, including Debra Otis’ own specialist, was definitive that she should not pursue a procedure with Mr. Johnson as donor, but rather will be better served by accepting transplanted organs through the conventional process.”

In a one-page letter to Gov.Daniels on Tuesday, Drs. A. Joseph Tector and Dr. Hwan Y. Yoo, both of Clarian Health Partners in Indianapolis, stated that "quite apart from any legal, ethical or other questions, Gregory Scott Johnson is not a medically appropriate organ donor for his sister, Debra Otis."

In their letter, the physicians stated Johnson was an unsuitable donor due to his exposure to hepatitis B, his obesity and unspecified "hereditary factors."

The physicians also stated they did not want to jeopardize the Clarian Transplant Center's compliance with guidelines set by the United Network for Organ Sharing, which has "a clear position against allowing condemned prisoners to donate organs."

Transplant requests from death row prisoners in the United States have occurred before, though they are unusual, according to Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. In 1995, aDelaware case a condemned man donated a kidney to his mother, and returned to death row. In Alabama, a prisoner awaiting execution won permission for an organ donation, but he was not a correct match, Dieter said. In a Florida case, an inmate was denied a request to donate a kidney to his brother. The condemned man was later exonerated and released from jail, but his brother died waiting for a transplant, Dieter said.

The victim's relatives agreed that far too much attention had been given to Johnson. Her great-niece, Julie Woodard, wants Johnson to be known as the cold-blooded killer, not someone who tried to donate his liver to his sister. "I want him to be remembered as a man who viciously beat a sweet woman to death -- not the man who tried to save his sister, but the man who killed (an 82-year-old woman)" Woodard said.

Last words and such: "Everyone has been professional." After the execution, a handwritten statement from Johnson was distributed. In it, he expressed hope that his sister would survive even without his liver. "There are those who claim that Debi will have a new liver three weeks after being placed on the list. I'll be watching from above and expect her to be recuperating at that time." He was critical of the Indiana Parole Board for refusing to believe he sincerely wanted to help his sister, that he could have changed in 20 years. The board, he wrote, violated the Indiana Constitution, which states the penal code is "founded on the principles of reformation, and not of vindictive justice." He then thanked others for their prayers. "I'll see you on the other side."

Factoids: Johnson was the...

26th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
970th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
3rd murderer executed in Indiana in 2005
14th murderer executed in Indiana since 1976

About 20 protesters had gathered outside the prison several hours before the execution for a candlelight vigil. "Deep inside, there are spiritual values in all people," Marti Pizzini, Michigan City, said at the vigil. "We are on the side of right, and we will prevail."

Unlike at some past executions, there were no pro-death penalty demonstrators at the prison.

Johnson is the third inmate in Indiana executed this year, the most in one year in the state since 1949.