Johnson was mistakenly diagnosed and mistakenly classified as a person who had no intellectual disability during childhood and after his death penalty hearing, his lawyers claim.
They also argue that his sentence was arbitrary because a co-defendant was not sentenced to death. Vernon Thomas, convicted of many of the same acts of violence as Johnson, including four murders, was spared the death penalty for his intellectual disability.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, recently said that there had been no lame duck execution in more than a century until the Orlando Hall in Texas execution last month. No outgoing president has carried out more than one execution in the transition period since 1888-1889 during Grover Cleveland’s first presidency, Dunham said.
In addition to Johnson, the federal government planned executions on November 20 for two other federal death row inmates, including Dustin Higgs, who was sentenced to death in Maryland in 2000 for the murder of three young women. Higgs is due to die on January 15th.
Jazmyn Howell, a Richmond resident, started a petition on Change.org to save Higgs’ life with more than 860,000 signatures.
“President-elect Biden said he was against the death penalty,” Howell wrote to supporters of her petition. “If we can postpone Dustin’s execution for just five days, we could save his life forever.”