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Nuncio, on behalf of pope, urges Missouri governor to halt Oct. 5 execution

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, nuncio to the United States, has urged Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson to respect “the humanity” of death-row inmate Ernest Lee Johnson and “the sacredness of all human life” and stop his Oct. 5 execution.

Writing to Parson on behalf of Pope Francis, the nuncio asked that he halt the scheduled execution and grant him “some form appropriate form of clemency.”

“This request is not based upon the facts and circumstances of his crimes; who could not argue that grave crimes such as his deserve grave punishments?” Pierre said in a Sept. 27 letter to Parson. “Nor is this request based upon Mr. Johnson’s doubtful intellectual capacity. Rather His Holiness wishes to place before you the simple fact of Mr. Johnson’s humanity and the sacredness of all human life.”

Johnson, 61, who is African American, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre at 6 p.m. (local time) Oct. 5.

He was convicted of first-degree murder in 1995 and sentenced to death for killing three employees of a Columbia, Missouri, convenience store — 46-year-old Mary Bratcher, 57-year-old Mable Scruggs and 58-year-old Fred Jones — with a claw hammer.

His lawyer and advocates for clemency have argued that his execution would be unconstitutional because a 2008 operation for a brain tumor left him with a diminished intellectual capacity. Surgeons had to remove roughly one-fifth of his brain tissue.

Pierre said that in issuing an “urgent plea” for clemency for Johnson, the pope was asking Parson “to consider that, when violence of all types is restrained, even the violence of a legal execution, all of society benefits.”

“As Pope Francis cautioned in his encyclical letter ‘Fratelli Tutti,’ ‘Do not let the atrocity of their sins feed a desire for vengeance, but desire instead to heal the wounds which those deeds have inflicted,’” he said.

Pierre praised the state of Missouri for the “courageous stands” it has taken “in support of the dignity of life, even at its earliest and most vulnerable stage.”

Read more at Crux

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