UPDATED — After a 29-year stint on death row, convicted murderer Cecil C. Johnson was executed Wednesday, making him the sixth prisoner put to death by the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 2000.
Johnson was pronounced dead at 1:34 a.m. Wednesday.
The execution closed a bloody chapter in Nashville’s history that began in 1980 with a robbery-homicide that left three dead, including a 12-year-old boy.
In a last effort to put the execution on hold, attorneys and supporters filed a wave of documents in U.S. District and Supreme courts.
The only successful filing was a request to stop a post-execution autopsy.
Johnson claimed that an autopsy would amount to desecration because of a 'sincerely held religious belief,' but the state argued it was another attempt to the stop his execution.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Echols granted the temporary restraining order.
Ann Charvat, the director of Reconciliation Ministries, submitted a stay of execution request with the U.S. Supreme Court late Tuesday. The filing asked the court to hold up the execution in order to “prevent the traumatic harm that will occur to Mr. Johnson’s child and other children of the incarcerated, should he be executed.”
The court denied the request around 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Earlier attorneys had submitted unsuccessful applications for a stay of execution and writ of certiorai to the court. The filings again challenged the execution on the grounds that Johnson’s lengthy death row sentence was cruel and unusual punishment and that the lower courts must be asked to reexamine whether or not his constitutional rights have been violated.
Appeals to both Gov. Phil Bredesen and Judge Echols were also unsuccessful.
Johnson was convicted of the July 1980 murders of Charles House, James Moore and Bobby Bell Jr. of Nashville.
That night, the perpetrator entered Bob Bell’s Market, located on 12th Avenue South and demanded the store’s money. Before leaving, Johnson killed 12-year-old Bobby Jr., shot two other men inside the store and shot and killed two men waiting in a taxi outside.
Johnson has maintained his innocence throughout. No physical evidence linked him to the crime scene, although four eyewitnesses identified Johnson at his trial as the gunman.