Richard Charles Johnson Clemency Letter
EXECUTED MAY 2002
BY FAX: 803-734-9413
April 26, 2002
Governor Jim Hodges
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 11829
Columbia, SC 29211
Re: Richard Charles Johnson
Dear Governor Hodges:
On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union we urge you to grant clemency and prevent the execution of Richard Charles Johnson who is scheduled to die on May 3rd. We ask you to grant Mr. Johnson this relief because it is very likely that the State of South Carolina is poised to execute an innocent man.
It has been noted that Mr. Johnson's case has all of the earmarks of trial in which the risk of executing an innocent person is the greatest. The evidence presented against him was slim and favorable information was withheld.
Mr. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death on the basis of the testimony of three people, all of who gained by incriminating Mr. Johnson. Two, his co-defendants, received complete immunity and were released from jail the day after they testified against Mr. Johnson. The third was a jailhouse snitch with a history of falsely testifying against other prisoners. The jury was never informed that these critical witnesses against Mr. Johnson had made deals with the prosecution in exchange for their testimony.
The only solid physical evidence supports Mr. Johnson's innocence. Tests for gunpowder residue on Mr. Johnson's hands demonstrate that he did not fire the murder weapon.
Finally, one of Johnson's co-defendants, Ms. Connie Sue Hess, has now retracted her earlier statements implicating Richard Johnson and confessed to the murder herself. And Mr. Johnson had no prior history of violence. His prison record does not contain a single disciplinary action in the 16 years that he has been on death row.
In the interest of justice, we respectfully submit that there is too great a risk that this death sentence has been in error. We ask that you grant clemency to Richard Charles Johnson.
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
ACLU of South Carolina