UPDATE: Appeal hearings in Casey's killings address mental competence

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 7:32 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 1, 2009

COLUMBIA  — The defense team continued calling witnesses Tuesday in the second day of a court trial appealing the death sentence of Ernest Lee Johnson.

Johnson was convicted of the 1994 murders of three Casey’s General Store employees: Mary Bratcher, Mabel Scruggs and Fred Jones.

Testimony concerning Johnson’s psychiatric condition concluded with Richard Adler, M.D., who diagnosed Johnson with several disorders, including partial fetal alcohol syndrome and mild mental retardation.

“Not to steal my own thunder,” Adler said, “but this guy has both.”

The diagnosis came after reviewing reports from psychologists Natalie Brown and and Paul Connor, who both testified Monday, along with a four-hour examination of Johnson that Adler completed at Potosi Correction Center.

David Sloss, a law professor at Santa Clara University, testified about a study he co-authored about when prosecutors choose to seek the death penalty for murder charges in Missouri.

Sloss testified that there were statistics that showed a disproportionate percentage of death-eligible offenses in Boone County and said rules allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty are too vague.

Judge Gene Hamilton, a former prosecutor, questioned the witness on his knowledge of prosecution and evidence, as well as some of the statistics in the report after cross-examination.

Sloss never practiced criminal law but has taught it at both Santa Clara University and previously at Saint Louis University.

Defense attorney Valerie Leftwich said the defense plans to call eight more witnesses to testify Wednesday. Leftwich said they had “no doubt” testimony would be finished Wednesday.


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Greg Collins July 1, 2009 | 8:22 a.m.

Exactly why is Ernest Lee Johnson still breathing? What about this case - involving the brutal murder of 3 people at his hands - is unclear?

All this nonsense about statistics involving death penalty cases and Boone County is a lot of crap ... and it slows down the application of justice which remains to be done.

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