Judge Robert Echols has denied a request argued Monday morning in his courtroom for injunctive relief for Cecil Johnson, the convicted killer scheduled to be executed Dec. 2.
Johnson was convicted of three counts of murder stemming from the 1980 robbery of Bob Bell's Market, located on 12th Avenue in what is now the 12South Taproom. He submitted a last-minute request for relief on Nov. 25 after Gov. Phil Bredesen denied a petition for executive clemency earlier that day.
Johnson was sentenced to the death penalty in 1981 for the three murders that resulted from the robbery. Killed were Bob Bell's 12-year-old son Bobby Jr. and two men seated in a cab outside the store, Charles House and James Moore.
In the request, Johnson's attorneys argued because of the convicted killer's 29-year stay on death row, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to execute him now.
But Echols' order states such a request is, in fact, a “functional equivalent” to a “second or successive habeas petition.” But a district court cannot make a decision on such a petition without “prior appellate approval,” which is not present in the current case. Therefore, Echols stated his court could not make the decision for lack of jurisdiction.
The Echols decision dismisses the case to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.