Missouri Supreme Court upholds death sentence in Kirkwood police killing

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | 5:22 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and death sentence of a man for the 2005 murder of a suburban St. Louis police officer.

The court on Tuesday rejected all 11 appeal points raised by Kevin Johnson, who was convicted in the shooting death of Kirkwood Police Sgt. Bill McEntee.

McEntee was shot after responding to a report of fireworks on the evening of July 5, 2005.

Earlier in the day, police were in the same neighborhood searching for Johnson, who had an outstanding warrant for a probation violation involving a misdemeanor assault. Their investigation was interrupted when Johnson's 12-year-old half-brother had a seizure in the house next door.

The officers on the scene provided aid until the arrival of an ambulance and additional police, including McEntee. The boy died of a heart condition at the hospital, according to the Supreme Court decision.

When McEntee was summoned to the neighborhood two hours later about fireworks, Johnson approached his patrol car, said, "You killed my brother," and shot at him five times, the Supreme Court ruling said.

Johnson then took the officer's gun, and after the patrol car rolled down the street, he shot the already wounded McEntee again in the head, the court ruling said.

One of Johnson's arguments on appeal was that the definition of "deliberation" required for a first-degree murder conviction is unconstitutionally vague. A conviction for second-degree murder does not carry the potential for a death sentence.

Among the other arguments rejected in the court's 6-1 decision was a claim that prosecutors wrongly excluded a potential juror because she was black.

That claim was rejected in the majority opinion written by Supreme Court Judge William Ray Price Jr. He noted that prosecutors gave a race-neutral explanation: that the potential juror served as a foster parent with the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center, where Johnson received services as a youth.

In dissent, Judge Richard Teitelman said he would have overturned the conviction. He said at least four white jurors had had contacts with the state Division of Family Services, which has custody of foster children. He said the race-neutral explanation for the black woman's exclusion from the jury was further undermined because prosecutors did not ask other jurors if they were familiar with the Annie Malone organization.


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