Man scheduled to die shortly after midnight for 1981 rape, murder

Wednesday, January 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- On Oct. 27, 1981, Malcolm Rent Johnson beat, raped and suffocated 76-year-old Ura Alma Thompson in her Oklahoma City apartment. Shortly after midnight tonight, he is scheduled die for the crime at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Johnson, 41, is to be executed by injection, becoming the 20th state prisoner to be executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1977. He would be the 103rd inmate to be put to death in state history. At the time of Ms. Thompson's murder, Johnson was 23 and had already been convicted in Illinois of two rapes, two armed robberies and a burglary.

The evidence against Johnson included several of Ms. Thompson's personal items that were found during a search of his apartment, and hair and semen from the crime scene that matched samples taken from Johnson. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Johnson's final appeal in November. He claimed the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury, withheld evidence that could have cleared him and denied him money he needed to run an adequate defense. Johnson also said prosecutors wrongly struck three black jurors because of their race.

In December, Johnson opted not to go before the state clemency board to try and have his sentence commuted. Johnson's public defender Bob Ravitz declined comment on the case, but Attorney General spokesman Gerald Adams said the decision does not tell him that Johnson thinks he should die for his crime. "All it tells me is that he didn't avail himself of theopportunity to tell his side of the story one more time," Adams said.

Corrections Department spokesman Jerry Massie said Johnson was to be moved this morning from his cell on death row to one adjacent to the prison's execution grounds. Massie said prison chaplains would be available to Johnson throughout the day. If Johnson has requested any witnesses -- he is allowed up to five, plus two spiritual advisers -- he can spend the day with them in a non-contact visiting room. Massie said he did not want to say what witnesses Johnson will have present until they show up at the prison.

The attorney general's office said it is possible a nephew of Ms. Thompson will attend the execution. Sometime tonight, Johnson will eat his requested last meal. Later, Johnson will be led into the execution chamber where he will be strapped down and have an intravenous line put in each arm.

Shortly after midnight, three drugs will be injected into him. The first will cause unconsciousness, the second will stop his breathing and the third will stop his heart. Two other inmates are scheduled for upcoming executions. Five-time killer Gary Alan Walker is to be executed Jan. 13, whil eMichael Donald Roberts is scheduled to die Feb. 10 for killing an 80-year-old Oklahoma City woman during a burglary attempt. There are 143 inmates on death row in Oklahoma.