• Dozens gather in Midtown to protest execution of Donnie Johnson

    By: Kirstin Garriss

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Moments before Donnie Johnson was executed in Nashville, members of the Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty had a prayer vigil in Memphis. 

    “We had high hopes that Governor Lee would intervene it’s a strong case. He could have started with a different way of dealing with our system, a broken system,” said Rev. Amy Howe, member of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

    RELATED: Tennessee family, 'spiritual advisor' developed connection with Donnie Johnson before his execution

    Howe said this one is personal because Johnson was from Memphis and his stepdaughter Cynthia Vaughn supports the group’s efforts. 

    Howe said this execution made Vaughn a victim all over again.


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    “For many people the death penalty doesn’t bring closure to the family members, and for Cynthia, it certainly doesn’t. She feels like she’s losing her mother all over again and losing another parent to a violent death,” said Howe.

    Currently, there are 58 people on death row in Tennessee and almost half of them are from Shelby County.

    Howe said something must change. She believes life sentences with and without parole is more humane. 

    “Get the word out to look at our system and see how broken it is and how random and cruel, and that maybe citizens will rise up and say to Governor Lee we have to stop this,” said Howe.

    The group told FOX13 they will continue to send letters and make calls to Gov. Bill Lee ahead of the next execution in August.

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