Death Row murderer Corey Johnson executed while recovering from coronavirus

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Death Row inmate Corey Johnson has been executed by lethal injection while he was still recovering from coronavirus.

Johnson was convicted over seven murders in 1992 and was the 12th federal inmate to be put to death under President Trump.

Mr Johnson committed the slayings in Virginia as part of a drug-trafficking ring.

The 52-year-old was pronounced dead at 11.34pm local time on Thursday, following lethal injection with pentobarbital.

He was put to death at the US Department of Justice's execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.

His lawyers argue he had an intellectual disability, meaning it was unconstitutional to execute him.

His crimes included shooting a rival drug dealer, killing a woman who hadn't paid for crack cocaine and shooting a man at close range who he suspected was working with the police.

His lawyers released a statement, saying Mr Johnson apologised to the families that were victimised by his actions.

It read: “On the streets, I was looking for shortcuts, I had some good role models, I was side tracking, I was blind and stupid,” he said.

“I am not the same man that I was.”

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Lethal injection is a process that often causes pulmonary edema, where fluid enters the lungs while the person is still conscious and creates a painful experience similar to drowning or suffocating.

Johnson was still experiencing symptoms from his Covid-19 diagnosis last month.

Experts within the medical field have warned receiving an overdose of pentobarbital- used with lethal injections – would likely make it more painful for those recovering from coronavirus, as the virus damages the lungs.

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A federal judge found the warnings credible, and issued a stay of execution of Johnson and another man, Dustin Higgs – also diagnosed with Covid – until March.

But the government appealed and the US Supreme Court ruled for Johnson's killing to go ahead.

In his final statement, Johnson apologised to the victims of his crimes by name.

He thanked staff in the Prison's Special Confinement Unit, his legal team and spiritual advisers.

He told his family he loved them.

Johnson’s lawyers condemned the execution as a “stark violation of the Constitution and federal law.”

“The government’s arbitrary rush to execute Mr. Johnson, who was categorically ineligible for execution due to his significant impairments, rested on procedural technicalities rather than any serious dispute that he was intellectually disabled,” Donald P. Salzman and Ronald J. Tabak said in a statement.

“No court ever held a hearing to consider the overwhelming evidence of Mr. Johnson’s intellectual disability. And the clemency process failed to play its historic role as a safeguard against violations of due process and the rule of law.”

“We loved Corey Johnson, and we knew him as a gentle soul who never broke a rule in prison and kept trying, despite his limitations, to pass the GED. His family and loved ones are in our hearts,” the lawyers added. 

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