Man put to death after court lifts stay

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:26 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Timothy Johnston, 44, was executed at 12:07 a.m. today at the Missouri state prison in Bonne Terre.

Johnston was convicted of beating his wife, 27-year-old Nancy Johnston, to death in front of her 11-year-old son in 1989, according to Associated Press reports.

There had been a chance the execution would be delayed after Johnston was granted a stay of execution by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, said Johnston’s attorney, Chris McGraugh.

The stay was granted after McGraugh argued that Missouri’s method of lethal injection violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

However, the full appeals court later overturned the stay at the request of state Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Gov. Matt Blunt denied a clemency request filed by the attorneys representing Johnston. The governor said he found no reason to set aside the result of previous judicial decisions on the case, according to a news release from Blunt’s office.

“We are disappointed in both decisions,” McGraugh said.

McGraugh said he filed an appeal for a stay of execution to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was his client’s last chance.

The Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation held a vigil Tuesday at Boone County Courthouse and a prayer service at St. Thomas More Newman Center to protest the execution. At least seven vigils were held across Missouri, including one across the street from the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City, said Jeff Stack, Fellowship of Reconciliation coordinator.

According to its Web site, the fellowship is “a pacifist group committed to active nonviolence as a means of personal, social, and political change.”

Stack said he and other supporters came to let the public know that not all Missourians support the death penalty.

“We’re gathering because Timothy Johnston was a human being and to remember Nancy Johnston and all murder victims,” Stack said.

Johnston was found guilty and sentenced to die in 1991, according to federal court records. There are now 54 inmates awaiting execution on Missouri’s death row, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections. Johnston was the fourth person executed in Missouri this year; 65 have been executed since 1989.

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