Tennessee Death Row Inmate Refuses Last Meal, Donates It to the Homeless

May 16, 2019 Updated: May 16, 2019

A Tennessee death row inmate who murdered his wife has turned down his special last meal ahead of his May 16 execution, asking instead for the food to be donated to a homeless person.

Don Johnson, 68, was sentenced to death for the 1984 slaying of his wife.

Connie Johnson, the death row inmate’s late wife, died by suffocation after he stuffed a 30-gallon trash bag down her throat.

He is scheduled to die by lethal injection.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced he will not intervene in the execution of Johnson, who has undergone an apparent religious conversion.

“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 intervening,” Lee said in his brief one-sentence statement.

Lee’s announcement came as religious leaders pushed for clemency for Johnson.

John Dysinger, Johnson’s spiritual adviser, said at a May 9 press conference that he was hopeful the governor would grant clemency.

“I felt like the governor’s staff heard us out very well. They were engaged. They asked deep and probing questions. And I think they’re taking it very seriously,” Dysinger said. “I have every hope they’re praying about it, and they’re going to make the decision that Jesus would make.”

The news conference was held at Riverside Seventh Day Adventist Church, where Johnson is an elder assigned to minister to his fellow inmates. Two banners in the lobby outside the sanctuary refer to the upcoming execution of “our Donnie Johnson” and ask churchgoers to “Join the Journey: Forgiveness for Don.”

Last Meal and Final Letter

The Tennessee Department of Correction was cited by the Tennessean as saying that instead of opting for a special last meal, Johnson would instead select from the same menu given to other prisoners of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

Inmates in Tennessee have up to $20 to spend on a special last meal.

Public Defender Kelley Henry told the publication in a written statement that Johnson’s decision to forego the special meal was inspired by his friend, executed inmate Philip Workman, who similarly requested that his last meal be given to a homeless person.

“Mr. Johnson realizes that his $20 allotment will not feed many homeless people,” Henry told the news outlet. “His request is that those who have supported him provide a meal to a homeless person.”

Workman’s request to have vegetarian pizza delivered to a homeless shelter was not honored by the state, though his supporters later carried out his final wish.

Johnson also wrote a letter to his children Cindy and Jason and to his former wife’s family, asking for their forgiveness.

In the letter, obtained by the Tennessean, he wrote: “I truly regret my life and what I became in the process.

“I am and will continue to carry the pain of all the grief that I have caused others to endure and that I have hurt so many others.

“It was the life that I had chosen that lead to the darkest day I had ever experienced and not until I took the responsibility for my wife Connie’s death could I receive forgiveness and start on that road to healing.”

Johnson has been placed on 24-hour death watch ahead of Thursday’s execution.

Tennessee executed three inmates in 2018 after a nine-year hiatus, during which legal challenges to the state’s lethal injection protocols put all executions on hold.

Johnson’s execution is the first of four planned in 2019.

Georgia Inmate Apologizes to Victims Before Execution

A man who killed his ex-girlfriend and another woman over two decades ago was put to death in Georgia on May 2 via lethal injection.

Scotty Garnell Morrow was 52 at the time of his execution at a state prison in Jackson.

According to WSB-TV, Morrow requested a last meal of a hamburger with mayonnaise, two chicken and waffle meals, a pint of butter pecan ice cream, a bag of buttered popcorn, two all-beef franks, and a large lemonade.

Scotty Garnell Morrow
Scotty Garnell Morrow is seen in custody. (Georgia Department of Corrections via AP)

Moments before he was executed, Morrow apologized to the family of his murdered victims and to a woman he also shot, but who survived.

Strapped to a gurney before he received a lethal injection of the sedative pentobarbital, Morrow said, “I would like to give my most deepest and sincere apologies to the Woods family and the Young family,” adding that he hopes they can find peace.

Morrow was the first inmate put to death in Georgia this year. His execution came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-hour bid to block the death sentence from being carried out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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