Man scheduled to be executed for murder, victim’s family pleads to save his life

Convicted killer to be executed next week

NASHVILLE, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South man is scheduled to die in a week for the 1984 murder of his wife. Now, the victim’s own family is pleading with Tennessee’s governor to spare his life.

Don Johnson is appealing to Governor Bill Lee's faith.

The 68-year-old death row inmate says he is a changed man after converting to Christianity behind bars.

"I would ask him to do what God leads him to do," said Johnson.

Johnson is set to be executed for the 1984 murder of his wife, Connie.

She was suffocated and her body was left in a van at the old Mall of Memphis site a few weeks before Christmas.

Johnson has filed for a clemency application asking for Governor Lee to stop the execution.

Connie Johnson's own daughter, Cynthia Vaughn, is asking for the same thing for her stepfather.

She says she visited him in prison in 2012 and it allowed her to forgive him.

"That was the man on the other side of the thick prison glass that caused me so much heartache. It was me," said Vaughn.

Religious leaders gathered in Nashville Thursday to show support for Johnson.

Johnson has not yet chosen a method of execution.

His choices are lethal injection or the electric chair.

Johnson and 22 other inmates have argued the three-drug protocol in lethal injection does not keep the inmate from feeling excruciating pain.

Attorney, Robert Hutton, has extensive experience with death penalty cases. He says the debate is over whether the sedative drug stops the person from feeling the next two injections.

“What the person feels in the second drug is paralytic, it freezes all the voluntary muscles so you can’t move,” said Hutton. “You feel everything but you also can’t breathe so there’s a suffocating feeling and then the third drug causes excruciating pain.”

Last year, two inmates in executions actually chose the electric chair. One of those inmates was Edmund Zagorski.

“His feeling was that even though electrocution may be more painful, it was a lot quicker," said Hutton.

Tennessee courts rejected the inmates lethal injection challenge last year.

However, the inmates asked for it to be revived.

A ruling could come on Monday.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to Governor Bill Lee for comment and have not heard back.

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