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U.S. appeals court dismisses Ernest Lee Johnson case

A U.S. Court of Appeals has dismissed an appeal by convicted killer Ernest Lee Johnson, sending his case back to the Western District Court of Missouri.

Johnson was scheduled to be executed in November, but was granted a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court. The convicted murderer had filed an appeal to halt his execution, citing the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.” Johnson’s attorneys claim the drug could cause painful seizures due to a tumor on Johnson’s brain and scarring on the brain due to surgery.

The Western District Court dismissed Johnson’s appeal, claiming he failed to establish a reasonable alternative to lethal injection. The court dismissed his appeal without prejudice, meaning Johnson could file again, provided he fixes his original appeal. The court also tried to invoke a federal rule, termed “54b,” essentially giving Johnson more time to amend his claim.

On Monday, theEighth DistrictU.S. Court of Appeals determined the federal rule wasn’t valid in this case, and that it could not make a ruling on Johnson’s appeal because the district court’s rule was not final, and the district court had given no indication that its decision was the end of the case.

Because the state has not established a new execution date, Johnson can amend his appeal “without the pressure of a scheduled execution.”

You can read the Eight District U.S. Court of Appeals decision here.

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