US executes Virginia gang killer despite COVID-19 infection

Virginia killer executed

The U.S. government executed a drug trafficker Thursday for slaying seven people in a burst of violence in Virginia’s capital in 1992, with some witnesses in the death-chamber building applauding as the 52-year-old was pronounced dead.

Corey Johnson's execution went ahead after his lawyers scrambled to stop it on grounds that the lethal injection of pentobarbital would cause him excruciating pain due to lung damage from his coronavirus infection last month.

He was the 12th inmate executed at the prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, since the Trump administration restarted federal executions following a 17-year hiatus. The last during the presidency of ardent death-penalty advocate Donald Trump was set for Friday.

Johnson, who his lawyers said was severely mentally disabled, was pronounced dead at 11:34 p.m.

When asked if he had any last words, Johnson appeared distracted, focusing on a room to his left designated for members of his family. Still glancing around, he responded, “No. I’m OK.”

Seconds later, he said softly while gazing intently at same room, “Love you.”

After the execution, his lawyers released Johnson's last statement. In it, he said the pizza and strawberry shake he ate and drank before the execution “were wonderful” but he didn’t get the jelly-filled doughnuts he wanted. He added: “This should be fixed."

And he apologized.

“I want to say that I am sorry for my crimes," he said. “I wanted to say that to the families who were victimized by my actions." He also said he wanted his victims' names to be remembered.

As the lethal drug began flowing through IVs into his arms strapped to a cross-shaped gurney, Johnson lifted his wrist and waved to someone in the room. 

For two minutes, Johnson continued to try to speak. But suddenly, his eyelids drew down hard and his mouth fell agape. He moved only slightly after that. It took a little more than 20 minutes for him to die.

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