Death Row Inmate in Tennessee Forgoes Special Last Meal and Instructs Supporters to Donate Food to Homeless

Donnie Edward Johnson, 68, declined to spend the $20 allotted to the last meal death row inmates consume before their executions in favor of the food served to the general population at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.
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A man on death row has decided to forgo a special last meal and has instead instructed his supporters to donate food to the homeless before his scheduled execution in Tennessee Thursday. 

Donnie Edward Johnson, 68, declined to spend the $20 allotted to the last meal death row inmates consume before their executions in favor of the food served to the general population at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. 

Johnson’s decision was a tribute to fellow inmate Philip Workman, who before he was put to death requested the $20 be spent on vegetarian pizzas for a local homeless shelter, Johnson’s attorney Kelley Henry told The Tennessean.

Authorities at the prison did not send pizzas to the shelter, but those who supported Workman did, and now Johnson hopes the same will be done for him, Henry said.

"Mr. Johnson realizes that his $20 allotment will not feed many homeless people," Henry said in an email to the newspaper. "His request is that those who have supported him provide a meal to a homeless person."

Johnson was sentenced to die for the Dec. 8, 1984, murder of his wife, Connie Johnson, whom he suffocated by putting a 30-gallon trash bag down her throat, officials said. After killing his wife, Johnson left her body in a mall parking lot. It was two weeks before Christmas. 

Johnson and his attorneys never disputed the details of his horrific crime, but have said he has changed as a person, finding religion in prison. 

Johnson became an elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church while behind bars and led prayer service for fellow inmates, facts which he and his legal team pointed to in their pleas to Gov. Bill Lee for clemency. 

His wife’s daughter from a previous marriage, Cynthia Vaughn, who was 7 when her mother was killed, had also called on the governor to save her stepfather from execution. Vaughn, whom Johnson adopted, wrote in a 21-page clemency petition submitted to Lee’s office in April that she forgave Vaughn for what he had done to her mother. 

"Cynthia's plea for mercy is exceptional. We know of only one other case in the history of the state of Tennessee in which the child of the ultimate victim has begged the governor for mercy for the murderer,” the letter read, according to The Tennessean. In that case, clemency was granted.

But Johnson’s case would not see the same outcome, as Lee denied his clemency appeal Tuesday. 

Other loved ones of Connie are more welcoming of her killer’s death, including Jason Johnson, who was 4 when his father murdered his mother.

He told The Tennessean he will watch as his father is executed “not to see him die … just to see my family actually have some closure.”

Johnson is scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. 

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