Saturday, October 20, 2007

July 24, 2007

Johnson had no final meal request.

The skinny:Johnson, 44, was executed for the fatal shootings of two teenagers 17 years ago.

More skinny: In the early morning hours Johnson approached the two teens at a convenience store and asked them for a ride.

The store clerk saw the victims leave in the pickup, with Johnson seated between them. When they were about 4 miles from the store, Johnson forced the pair out of the vehicle at gunpoint and shot each of them several times.

One victim ran away from the scene but Johnson chased him for a distance of about 350 feet before catching and killing him. Johnson then stole the truck and drove to Austin to see his girlfriend, who worked at a topless club. He told her that he had killed two boys. He later dumped the stolen truck in San Marcos, Texas, and sold the murder weapon for cocaine.

He was arrested after two weeks and he claimed that he killed the boys in self-defense after the pair pulled a gun and made racial threats against him. Johnson was black, his two victims white..

The bodies were found beside a rural road. One had been shot four times, the other twice.

Before the trial: While in Harris County Jail awaiting trial in the capital murders, Johnson hit a fellow inmate during an argument over a newspaper, fought with another inmate over cleaning supplies, struck an inmate with a writing pen, piercing the inmate’s lip, and broke a broom handle over the head of another inmate.

Leading up to:"I am innocent by reason of self-defense," Johnson said in an interview from death row the week before his execution. "The only difference between me and James Byrd Jr. is that I lived," he said. Byrd was a black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Jasper County in 1998. Juries found three white men guilty of capital murder in Byrd's killing. Two were sent to death row, and the third was given a life sentence.

Johnson had told prison officials he was sure he'd be spared the executioner. "He was pretty confident his appeals would keep him alive," said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark, who saw Johnson when he arrived at the death house.

Johnson got about an extra 30 minutes while the U.S. Supreme Court considered his final appeal. Then the appeal was rejected, and the 44-year-old Johnson became the 19th Texas prisoner put to death this year.

Last words and such: "It's been a joy and a blessing," he told a friend who watched through a window in the death chamber. "Give everybody my regards and my love. I'll see you in eternity. Father, take me home. I'm gone, baby. I'm ready to go."

Six relatives of his victims, including each of their mothers, watched through another window but Johnson never looked at them. They declined to speak with reporters following the lethal injection.

Factoids: Johnson was the...

31st murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1088th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
19th murderer executed in Texas in 2007
398th murderer executed in Texas since 1976

Death penalty opponents noted Johnson was the 100th person executed after being given a death sentence by a Harris County jury. The occasion was marked by about a half-dozen anti-death-penalty protestors, who stood on the sidewalk outside District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal's home for about an hour Tuesday evening.