Cory Johnson: Virginia man to be executed on Jan 14 for 10 murders, lawyers say he has 'intellectual disability'

Cory Johnson: Virginia man to be executed on Jan 14 for 10 murders, lawyers say he has 'intellectual disability'
Cory Johnson (Richmond Police)

Update: Cory Johnson was executed via lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Complex located in Terre Haute in Indiana. He was pronounced dead at around 11:34 pm ET on Thursday, January 14, 2021.

HAUTE TERRE, INDIANA: Cory Johnson, crack cocaine dealer from Virginia, on death row for taking at least 10 lives within 45 days in 1992, has been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on January 14. His attorneys, however, have stated that Johnson, 45, suffers from intellectual disability, which prohibits him from being executed under federal and Constitutional law.

Johnson's attorneys, Ronald J Tabak and Donald P Salzman, in a joint statement to MEAWW, said: "Corey Johnson is a person with intellectual disability. Yet, despite compelling evidence demonstrating his intellectual disability, no jury or court has ever listened to the evidence at a hearing to decide if he has intellectual disability.  Under federal law and pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v Virginia, Mr Johnson’s intellectual disability should prohibit his execution from being constitutionally carried out. We are not aware of any other federal death penalty prisoner who has never had a single evidentiary hearing at which he could present his intellectual disability evidence. The government should not proceed with Mr Johnson’s execution in the absence of a thorough and fair opportunity for him to present this evidence."

Johnson and his fellow gang members, James H Roane, 55, and Richard Tipton, 50, were sentenced to death in federal court in Richmond in 1993. The trio was indicted in April 1992 and was charged with killing 10 people. Another killing has also been attributed to the gang but was not prosecuted. The gang's victims included rival dealers, suspected snitches, and those who disrespected the gang or any of their partners. Reports state that one of the gang victims was stabbed 85 times, another was shot 16 times. Johnson, Tipton, and Roane are currently the longest-serving inmates on federal death row.

Federal executions resumed this year after a lull of at least 17 years. At least 8 executions have been carried out so far and three more are scheduled for December. The Justice Department scheduled Johnson's execution less than a week before the Trump administration ends. Johnson, when he was 13, was abandoned by his drug-addicted mother to a residential facility for children with intellectual and emotional impairments. Reports state that he was abandoned because he could not learn and because she could not cope with his intellectual limitations. When Johnson turned 18, he was released into the community with no life skills, no structure or support, his lawyers said.

The executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, Robert Dunham, in a statement on Friday, November 20, said that no president before Trump has carried out more than one execution in the transition period since Grover Cleveland’s first presidency in 1888-1889. Dunham added that the Justice Department also announced the execution dates of two other federal death row inmates: Alfred Bourgeois, 56, sentenced to death in Texas in 2004, was set for execution on December 11; and Dustin Higgs, 48, sentenced to death in Maryland in 2000, was set for January 15. “That’s two men with intellectual disability, Alfred Bourgeois and Corey Johnson,” Dunham added of the inmates. The US Supreme Court, in a decision in 2002, barred the execution of people deemed to be intellectually disabled.

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