Donnie Johnson prayed and sang hymns as execution began

Posted at 2:13 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 23:24:01-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/AP) — A man convicted of killing his wife decades ago at a camping center he managed in Memphis was executed by lethal injection.

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Sixty-eight-year-old inmate Don Johnson received a lethal injection Thursday evening for the 1984 suffocation death of his wife, Connie.

Witnesses said Johnson said a few things when the warden asked if he had any last words. He asked for forgiveness and said a long prayer before singing two hymns as he began to drift off and become quiet.

The witnesses explained that his prayer included asking for his own forgiveness and the forgiveness of those killing him. He also thanked God for his supporters and legal team and finished the prayer saying, "I commend my life into your hands thy will be done in Jesus' name, Amen."

After the execution process began, Johnson let out a few snoring or gurgling noises and gave out a loud shrieking noise. Witnesses said after that, he turned purple and didn't make any other noises.

Johnson was the fourth person executed in Tennessee since August, barring a last-minute stay. The last two inmates executed in Tennessee chose the electric chair, saying they believed it offered a quicker and less painful death than the state's default method, a three-drug lethal injection.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week it would not halt the execution, declining to take up a legal appeal that questioned the three drugs used in Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol.

Gov. Bill Lee declined clemency requests for Johnson from religious leaders including the president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church, of which Johnson is a member.

Governor Lee, his faith, and mercy for a death row inmate

Johnson opted out of selecting a last meal, instead asking for a meal to be delivered to a homeless person.