NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE — Inmate Donnie Johnson suffocated his wife in Memphis in 1984. He has been on death row for more than thirty years.
Johnson asked Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to commute his sentence because he is now a changed man. Lee has denied that request.
Lee said, “After a prayerful and deliberate consideration of Don Johnson’s request for clemency, and after a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervene.”
Johnson has opted to forgo his selection of a last meal. He will be offered the same menu that is served to the rest of the offenders at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.
Kelley J. Henry, Johnson’s public defender, said, “The decision was inspired by his friend, Philip Workman. Mr. Workman, who was also a Seventh-day Adventist, requested a vegetarian pizza to be delivered to a homeless person in lieu of his last meal. His request was not honored. However, benefactors across the country delivered pizzas to homeless shelters in response.”
In accordance with protocol, Johnson was moved to death watch Tuesday morning shortly after midnight. Death watch is the three-day period before an execution when strict guidelines are implemented to maintain the security and control of the offender and to maintain safe and orderly operations of the prison. During this period, the offender is placed in a cell adjacent to the execution chamber where he or she is under 24-hour observation by a team of correctional officers.
Only those individuals who are on the offender’s official visitation list are allowed to visit the offender during the death watch period. All visits are non-contact until the final day before the execution at which time the warden decides if the offender can have a contact visit.