The State of Texas executed Lonnie Earl Johnson on July 24, 2007. Johnson was 44 years old at the time of his death.
Johnson never denied killing the two teenagers for whose murders he was executed (Sean Schulz (16) and Leroy McCaffry (17)). However, Johnson did claim that the two victims made racist threats against him (they were white, he was black) and pulled a gun on him. Prison officials say that Johnson believed until shortly before his death that his appeals would be successful and he would not die.
Whether or not Schulz's and McCaffry's deaths were the result of self-defense or were murder, their deaths are tragic. My heart certainly goes out to their parents and families. Yet, even if Johnson murdered those boys without provocation, I still believe it was wrong to execute him.
There is more to the story of Johnson's execution - separate, yet forever related. Lonnie Johnson was the 100th person convicted and sentenced out of Harris County, Texas to be executed since the death penalty was re-instated in Texas. In 25 years, Texas has executed 100 people from one single county. That is an average of 4 every year and its total is more than the total in any other STATE (aside from Texas). Moreover, Harris County, dear readers, is no ordinary county. Harris County has been the subject of great controversy over the last few years as the result of investigations that have shown its forensics lab to have been highly unreliable (no allegations that it currently is as far as I know). I wonder how many of those 100 individuals were convicted, sentenced and executed based on questionable forensics?
For more on the execution of Lonnie Johnson please see this article in the Houston Chronicle.
For more commentary on the Harris County 100-execution "milestone" please see the following blog posts:
Amnesty International - Counting to One Hundred
Texas Moratorium Network - Harris County: One County 100 Executions
Capital Defense Weekly - Lonnie Johnson: "Geography Means Everything"