8 April 2019 | A woman has asked Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to have mercy on a man due to be executed on May 16 for murdering her mother. Cynthia Vaughn made the appeal on behalf of death row inmate Donnie Edward Johnson, 68, an ordained Adventist elder. Johnson is due to be executed for killing his wife, Connie Johnson (Vaughn’s mother), in Memphis in 1984.
Vaughn said that she had forgiven Johnson of her mother’s murder. According to the Tennessean, this forgiveness is the centerpiece of the clemency petition put forward by Johnson’s legal team. The document claims that Johnson has been transformed from “a liar, a cheat, a con man and a murderer” to an ordained Adventist elder “with a flock in prison.”
Johnson was baptized as an Adventist while on death row and was ordained as a church elder at Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nashville in 2008. He now preaches to other inmates and listeners to his radio program What the Bible Says.
Governor Lee stressed his Christian faith during his campaign for office. In the appeal to Lee, Johnson’s legal team describes his as “an extraordinary case, where mercy, forgiveness, redemption and the miracle of rebirth in Christ all come together to warrant an exercise of your constitutional powers.” A spokesperson for Lee has stated that he would review the petition.
Johnson reached out to Vaughn after his initial execution date was delayed in 2006. Vaughn visited him in 2012.
“After I was finished telling him about all the years of pain and agony he had caused, I sat down and heard a voice. The voice told me, ‘That’s it, let it go,'” said Vaughn in the clemency petition. “The next thing that came out of my mouth changed my life forever.
“I looked at him, told him I couldn’t keep hating him because it was doing nothing but killing me instead of him, and then I said, ‘I forgive you.'”