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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Wasting taxpayers' money is real crime

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I really shouldn't get bothered by the stupidity of the justice system, but I do. Sometimes I wonder when and how we managed to replace common sense with our newfound sensitivity.

Let's look at Ernest Lee Johnson. Back in 1994, Johnson was a little low on cash to buy cocaine. So he walked into a convenience store and shot three people. Then - just for good measure, I assume - Johnson beat each victim with a hammer.

Well, police fairly quickly nabbed Johnson and put him on trial for the triple murder. And a jury just as quickly found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

Here's where it gets frustrating. First, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the conviction because his attorneys didn't explain his upbringing and drug addiction. Apparently if you had a rough childhood which drives you to murder, you are somehow potentially ineligible for the death sentence.

So another trial, another conviction, another death sentence. Then the United States Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to execute a retarded person. And since Johnson didn't exactly excel on his IQ tests, he was ruled retarded.

But Johnson was tested again. And again. And once again. These times he scored just high enough to cross the threshold of retardation and thus, a third trial. Same results. Same sentence.

Here's my question. On the day of the murders, Johnson visited the store four times to see how many people were working. He borrowed a gun from a relative. He wore a mask and extra layers of clothing to conceal his identity. And once he murdered the three people, he discarded his clothing and mask, returned the gun and concocted an alibi.

For a "retarded" person, Johnson seemed to put some detailed planning into his crime. He obviously knew what he was doing was wrong or he would have ignored the disguise. He carefully planned the crime for the single purpose of acquiring money for more drugs. The sensitivity of the times toward those with lower capabilities has obviously removed the issue of common sense from the judicial equation.

Society has spent 12 years now trying to determine what to do with Ernest Lee Johnson. I don't even want to begin discussing the money involved nor the time on the overburdened judicial system. And all of this waste of time and money was because a jury wasn't told he lived a tough life and that he scored low on IQ tests.

After all is said and done, Johnson will eventually receive the appropriate punishment. It's our fault that we allow the system to waste time and money when the outcome should be so obvious.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen