Missouri 19-year-old can’t watch her father’s execution, judge rules

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By Erik Ortiz, NBC News

Kevin Johnson at the Clayton Courthouse in Clayton, Mo., on Apr. 3, 2007. (F. Brian Ferguson / Pool/AP file)

A 19-year-old Missouri woman can’t be a witness to her father’s execution after a judge ruled Friday that a state law barring her from being present because of her age was constitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit this week on behalf of Khorry Ramey asking a federal court to allow her to attend her father’s planned execution Tuesday.

Kevin Johnson, 37, has been in prison since Ramey was 2 for the 2005 killing of William McEntee, a police officer in Kirkwood, Missouri.

“I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to be with my dad in his last moments,” Ramey said in a statement, adding that he “has worked very hard to rehabilitate himself in prison. I pray that [Gov. Mike] Parson will give my dad clemency.”

Johnson was 19 at the time of the crime — a parallel that isn’t lost on his supporters.

“It’s ironic that Kevin was 19 years old when he committed this crime and they still want to move forward with this execution, but they won’t allow his daughter who’s 19 at this time in because she’s too young,” Johnsons’ lawyer, Shawn Nolan, told reporters Friday.

Johnson had asked for his daughter to be a witness to his death, along with a spiritual adviser, an older brother and his elementary school principal, said Michelle Smith, co-director of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

But Missouri law says that no person younger than 21 can witness an execution. In its emergency filing, the ACLU argued that the statute violates Ramey’s constitutional rights by “singling out adults younger than 21 … without any rational relationship to a legitimate governmental or penological interest.”

U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes said in a written ruling that Ramey failed to demonstrate “unconstitutionality,” and that it remains “in the public’s interest to allow states to enforce their laws and administer state prisons without court intervention.”

Ortiz covers this ruling for NBC.

Kevin Johnson’s story is as frustrating as it is tragic.

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