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Donnie Edward JOHNSON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 8, 1984
Date of birth: January 15, 1951
Victim profile: Connie Johnson, 30 (his wife)
Method of murder: Suffocation (by stuffing a plastic garbage bag into her mouth)
Location: Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 1985

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee

Donnie E. Johnson v. State of Tennessee

United States Court of Appeals
For the Sixth Circuit

Donnie E. Johnson v. Ricky Bell, Warden

On December 8, 1984, Donnie Johnson signed Ronnie McCoy out of the Penal Farm where he was serving a four month sentence for charges of false reporting. Johnson took McCoy to their place of employment, Force Camping Sales.

At the close of the work day, Johnson's wife Connie met them there. McCoy testified that he left Connie Johnson alone with her husband in a sales office, and when he returned Johnson showed him Connie’s dead body. McCoy testified that he thereafter helped Johnson clean up the office and dispose of the body because he was scared of Johnson.

Johnson's story was that he left the room and when he returned, McCoy had killed Connie and that he had helped McCoy clean up the crime scene and dispose of Connie's body because he was scare of what McCoy would do if he did not cooperate. The jury convicted Johnson of first-degree murder.

In Tennessee inmates sentenced to die prior to 1999 are to choose the method of execution to be used - lethal injection or electric chair. If they don't choose it defaults to the electric chair. Donnie Johnson has chosen to die in the electric chair.


Tennessee: Appeals court rejects death-row inmate's claims

May 17, 2010

NASHVILLE — A federal appeals court on Monday ruled against a death row inmate who claims a prosecutor and his star witness lied about a deal to grant immunity for testimony.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against Donnie Johnson, agreeing with a lower court that there was not sufficient evidence that a deal existed.

Johnson was convicted in Shelby County in 1985 of suffocating his 30-year-old wife, Connie, by stuffing a plastic garbage bag into her mouth. He has said he is innocent and claims a work-release inmate robbed and killed his wife.

That inmate, Ronnie McCoy, admitted in court to helping clean up the crime scene and dispose of the body, but he has never been charged in the crime.

In 2006, the appeals court issued a stay of execution based on Johnson's claim that the prosecutor had an undisclosed agreement with McCoy not to pursue charges against him if he testified against Johnson in court.

At trial, McCoy testified that he left Johnson and his wife alone for a few minutes at a camping center Johnson managed and when he returned he found Connie Johnson's bleeding, dead body. McCoy then helped Donnie Johnson clean up the area, put the body in a van and take it to the Mall of Memphis, where it was found the next day.

In court filings, Johnson has shown that a 1988 pre-sentence report for McCoy from an unrelated crime states that McCoy was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony against Johnson. Wayne Morrow, the probation officer who prepared the report, has said in an affidavit that the report accurately reflects what McCoy told him at the time.

However, both McCoy and prosecutor Kenneth Roach have said in affidavits that McCoy was not granted immunity. And the court found that the pre-sentence report and accompanying affidavit did not constitute clear and convincing evidence that the court was deceived about a deal between the parties.

One member of the three-judge panel disagreed with the decision, writing that Johnson deserved an evidentiary hearing to determine the truth.

Judge Eric Clay, in his dissenting opinion, wrote that McCoy initially denied knowing anything about the murder of Connie Johnson, then changed his story to implicate Donnie Johnson three weeks later.

Despite acknowledging his role in the crime, McCoy's work release status was not revoked and he was paroled only two months later. It was while he was on parole that he testified against Johnson.

"The state asserts that it was able to obtain full participation from McCoy, a possible accomplice with a criminal history, without offering him any deal," Clay wrote. "At the very least, the prosecution's proposed version of events strains credulity."

The court dismissed a separate, but related, appeal claiming prosecutorial misconduct because the prosecutor essentially vouched for McCoy's truthfulness at trial.


Donnie Edward Johnson



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