Baby killer executed

Published 11:01 am Friday, October 21, 2011

“Game over.”

Those were the last words spoken by convicted baby killer Christopher Thomas Johnson before he was put to death by lethal injection Thursday night at Holman Correctional Facility.

Johnson’s death sentence was handed down after he pled guilty to the brutal 2005 murder of his six-month-old son, Elias Ocean Johnson.

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Johnson initially pled not guilty to the charges, but changed his plea to guilty after firing his public defenders just prior to the closing arguments in his 2006 trial, in order to represent himself.  Johnson subsequently took the stand, where he confessed to beating his son to death at their home in Atmore.

Despite a statement by Johnson announcing he did not plan to appeal his sentence, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on the case due to legal obligations. Their decision found Johnson mentally competent, and upheld the death sentence he said he wanted to receive.

Thursday night, at 5:57, Johnson received exactly what he asked for.

Johnson’s brother, Thomas Eugene Lagos, was the only family member present for the execution. Bathed in the dull red light of Holman Prison’s observation room C, Lagos touched the glass moments prior to the injection, while signing “I love you” to his condemned brother.

“That’s the second one. Cardiac arrest,” Lagos said, almost to himself, as the doses of lethal chemicals caused Johnson to mildly twitch.

“There goes the third one.  It’s over,” Lagos said at 6 p.m., as Johnson became completely still.

Alluding to the idea his brother had been anticipating his punishment during his six-year stay on death row, Lagos said “he’s been waiting on us for a long time.”

Unlike many past executions at Holman, no protesters lined the highway in front of the prison Thursday night.  There were no signs or chants urging officials to call of the execution. Alabama Department of Corrections spokesperson Brian Corbett said things were also fairly quiet inside Holman, as Lagos was the only family member present for the extended visitation period provided for Johnson Wednesday and Thursday.

During the hours leading up to Thursday’s execution, Corbett said nothing, short of the order of a stay from Gov. Robert Bentley, could halt Johnson’s impending fate.

A motion filed by Attorney General Luther Strange said Johnson was out of options, should he decide to try and stop or postpone his execution.

“He has exhausted his direct appeal and declined to seek relief under rule 32 or a federal habius corpus action,” the motion read.

Corbett pointed to the gruesome details of the crime, outlined in the motion, as a possible explanation for why no one, including Johnson himself, seemed to be taking any action to stop or delay the lethal injection.

According to the document, Johnson and his then wife, Dana, spent the night before their son’s death at home, playing board games with another couple until around 1 a.m. Johnson, himself, is said to have remained awake until around 3 a.m. when his son began to cry. Johnson first tried to sooth Elias with a bottle, but quickly became frustrated.

“Johnson didn’t want Elias’ crying to wake his wife,” the motion reads. “The defendant laid on top of Elias, covered Elias’ mouth with this hands for an extended period of time. He forced his fingers down his through to stop the crying and struck him with his hand.”

Dana Johnson is reported to have found her husband and child on the couch the next morning, when she noticed Elias was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Atmore Community Hospital, where emergency room personnel alerted the authorities after noticing bruising around Elias’ face.

Atmore Police Department investigator Chuck Brooks questioned both parents, when Johnson said he “believed he was at fault for the death.”

Alabama State Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kathleen Enstire performed the autopsy on the young boy and described the extent of the infant’s injuries.

According to the motion, Enstire testified to “at least 85 separate injuries” Elias sustained before his death.

“He suffered from three hard blows to his forehead, a fractured ethmoid bone, a bruise to the heart not caused by CPR, blood in the lungs, hemorrhaging in the spinal cord. eight separate impact spots on the head and swelling of the brain,” she said.

Enstire said the official cause of death was suffocation and head trauma, although Elias would have died from the suffocation alone.

Johnson testified he killed his son because he “hated his wife, didn’t want to be near her and didn’t want to worry about her threats of putting him in jail for alimony or child support.”

Dana Johnson, who was not charged in her son’s death, has since relocated to Arizona. She did not attend Thursday’s execution and has made no public statement since the sentence was carried out.

Christopher Thomas Johnson was pronounced dead by the state medical examiner at 6:25 p.m.