Tuesday, July 28, 2009

California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections demands return of Montell Johnson to California to die in prison.

For information contact: Ted Pearson, 312-927-2689

The California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections has notified attorneys for Montell Johnson that the State of California is demanding that Johnson be sent back to California to die in prison. Brenda Lewis, calling on behalf of the CDRC, called the attorneys Monday. Ms. Lewis number is 916-327-3957.

Attorneys for Montell Johnson filed an emergency motion July 16 for a temporary restraining order to prevent Johnson's transfer to a prison in California. Johnson suffers from multiple sclerosis. He is completely paralyzed from the waist down and on his left side as a result of chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, and is completely bedridden.

Johnson, through his attorneys, submitted an appeal for executive clemency to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2008. That appeal has gone unacknowledged.

The hearing on the emergency motion for a Temporary Restrininig Order blocking the transfer of Montell Johnson to a California prison will be before U. S. District Court Judge Robert M. Dow in Courtroom 1919 in the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn in Chicago, at 9:15 AM Thursday, August 6, 2009.

The Motion was in response Johnson's attorneys being informed by James Doran, on behalf of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), that transfer to the California prison system was going to take place shortly. Doran is a general law counsel in the office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The motion was filed by Attorneys Harold C. Hirshman and Camille E. Bennett of the firm Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal.

Johnson cannot eat or drink and cannot perform his bodily functions. He is fed through a tube in his stomach and evacuates through other tubes in his abdomen. He cannot talk. Johnson almost died in November 2007 from severe blood infections resulting from stage 4 bed sores caused by the failure of the IDOC to care for him properly. U. S. District Judge Suzanne Conlon at that time ordered that Johnson remain hospitalized until his condition stabilized. 10 months later Jonson was released from the hospital and was sent to Sheridan Correctional Center, where he is receiving special care under a plan approved by Judge Dow, who took over the case from Judge Conlon. His mother, Gloria Johnson-Ester, spends 8 hours a day with him at Sheridan, five days a week, where she can monitor his care.

Ironically, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich commuted Johnson's sentence to time served. But instead of releasing him the IDOC continued to hold him because of a 1998 agreement between former Illinois and California Govs. Jim Edgar and Pete Wilson. Edgar and Wilson agreed that Johnson could be extradited for a capital trial in Illinois only on the condition that if he were not executed, he would be returned to California.

Johnson was convicted of the murder of 1994 murder of Dorianne Warnsley in downstate Macon County and sentenced to death. His conviction was based on the testimony of the man who admitted to having actually committed the murder but who testified that Johnson had instructed him to do it. Terry Hoyt, Warnsley's mother, has insisted since the beginning that she is sure Johnson was not guilty.

In part on that basis Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted Johnson's death sentence to 40 years. By that time, however, Johnson had been diagnosed with MS and was already rapidly becoming paralyzed.

Hirshman sought information regarding provisions in California for continuing medical care for Johnson from Doran, and was told he had no information. Both Illinois and California are in severe budget crises. The California Prison Health System is under receivership for consistently failing to provide adequate health care.

"There is no evidence that California can take care of Mr. Johnson, or can even afford the care that is required; or is prepared to implement the medical treatment protocol presented" to the Federal Court last August, the motion notes. "The Illinois prison system no longer even has a chief medical officer who can evaluate what California has planned for Mr. Johnson, if anything." Judge Richard Posner, Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit, long ago warned that there is liability for prison officials who throw prisoners into a snake pit. "California's prison system, especially its medical branch, is just such a snake pit today."

The motion states, "There is no legal justification for the Department refusing to implement the Governor's decision [to release Johnson]. Mr. Johnson is being held without due process of law. Nor is there authority for the Department to spend $25,000 on the medivac plane necessary to take Mr. Johnson to California."

Mrs. Johnson-Ester is prepared to care for Mr. Johnson at her home.

Attorneys Hirshman and Bennett may be reached through at their office, 312-876-8000. Copies of the motion filed Thursday may be obtained from them or by contacting Ted Pearson, tpearson@naarpr.org.

No comments:

Post a Comment