Plea for mercy from death row inmate from Memphis remains before TN Governor Bill Lee

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee faces a life or death decision within the next few weeks as an execution looms on May 16th.

It’s the first clemency plea before him since taking office in January, where he is asked to stop the execution of a condemned Tennessee prison inmate from Memphis.

Don Johnson received the death penalty in 1984 after he was convicted of suffocating his wife.

“We certainly know it’s a very serious subject that will require a lot of information, a lot of input a lot of counsel,” said Governor Lee last week.

The 21-page clemency plea before Lee says Johnson’s only daughter has forgiven him for killing her mother. 

In 2006, Johnson spoke of what he called “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” developed while on Death Row.

“I have a peace now because that relationship transcends anything that allows me to deal with whatever I have to deal with here,” he said.

Lee brings a perspective like few governors before him, since he has served on the board of a prison ministry called Men of Valor. But the governor is not saying if he’ll meet with Don Johnson’s daughter as she requested.

“We are going to start talking about what that process looks like – who we meet with, who we bring together – to make this very important decision,” added the governor last week.

Previous governors have typically made clemency decisions just days for scheduled executions. 

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