Edward Earl Johnson

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Mississippi State Penitentiary, where Johnson was held on death row and executed

Edward Earl Johnson (June 22, 1960 – May 20, 1987) was a man convicted and executed by the U.S. state of Mississippi for the murder of a policeman, J.T. Trest, and the sexual assault of a 69-year-old woman, Sally Franklin. Throughout his eight years on death row, he continued to plead his innocence.


His case came to international attention when he was featured in the BBC documentary Fourteen Days in May. Broadcast in 1987, the documentary showed the last two weeks of Johnson's life. It starts on May 6, the day that Johnson learns the date of his execution. In interviews he says that his confession was made under duress, with police threatening him with death.

Throughout the documentary he also raised the point of the supposed victim saying during the police lineup that he was not the one who raped her.

The book, Life on Death Row (Thomas, 1991), by Merrilyn Thomas, details the events leading up to and following the Johnson trial. Thomas shows the key witness for the prosecution to be unreliable, changing her story and identification of her assailant several times at the time of the event and in subsequent questioning.[citation needed]

In the time since execution occurred, Johnson's lawyers located a woman who claimed to be with Johnson throughout the duration of the crime happening. She volunteered her testimony at the courthouse but was supposedly told to "go home and mind her own business".


In spite of British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith's attempts for a reprieve, Edward was executed. The documentary team was given access to him until minutes before the sentence was carried out. A follow-up documentary by Stafford Smith claimed to prove conclusively that Johnson was innocent and had been framed.

He was pronounced dead at 12:06 a.m. on May 20, 1987 after being put to death in the gas chamber of what was then called Parchman Prison Farm.

It was the second execution by the state of Mississippi since the Gregg v. Georgia decision and the 72nd overall in the United States.

General references[edit]

  • U.S. Executions Since 1976. The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney. Retrieved on 2007-11-12.
  • Thomas, Merrilyn (1991). Life on Death Row: One man's fight against racism and the death penalty. Paladin, UK. ISBN 0-586-09055-X.
  • Johnson v. Thigpen, 481 U.S. 1061 (1987). Retrieved on 2007-11-12.
  • Solotoroff, Ivan (2001). "The Last Face You'll Ever See: The Private Life Of The American Death Penalty". Harper Collins U.S. ISBN 0-06-017448-X