Sunday, July 14, 2013

Concern about Henry Johnson as 26th Judicial Circuit Judge (former Commonwealth's Attorney)

Kentucky Equality Federation today expressed concern about the appointment of Henry Johnson, the former Commonwealth’s Attorney in Harlan as the circuit judge for the Commonwealth’s 26th Judicial Circuit [until December 2014].

During his tenure as commonwealth’s attorney, Johnson failed to prosecute hate crimes in Harlan County, namely the case of Misty Turner and later, Kevin Pennington. Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer was forced to ask the federal government to intervene.

Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer was also featured in several stories with U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey and his commitment to prosecuting LGBTI hate crimes in Kentucky.

"Kentucky Equality Federation will continue to monitor the conduct of Judge Johnson and will report any indifference to enforce the laws of this Commonwealth both to the U.S. Department of Justice as well as the Kentucky Court of Justice Judicial Conduct Commission,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “Violent hate crimes do not just devastate the victim, they also send the message that some of our citizens are expendable, a message which will not be tolerated in our Commonwealth. We will not tolerate the slippery slope of allowing certain segments of our population to be victimized.

Though Johnson issued a summons for the accused in the Pennington case, the next day federal authorities took over the case. This is nothing short of political posturing on the part of the Johnson when he was the commonwealth’s attorney, as the citizens of Harlan saw that, something our attorneys later analyzed:

Misty Turner never saw any type of justice when Johnson was the Harlan Commonwealth’s Attorney; even after her family and children were assaulted in public. It is our sincere hope that Mr. Johnson now realizes the citizens of Harlan demand justice for all people, or they will be removed from office by their constituents as he was as commonwealth’s attorney.”

"The integrity and reliability of Kentucky’s criminal justice system has taken a major hit with the appointment of Johnson to the 26th Judicial Circuit,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation Regional Director Will Taylor. “I’m certain Johnson will not be reelected to the position given how easily he lost the last election and how indifferent Harlan citizens are to him.”

Kentucky Equality Federation is the Commonwealth's largest advocate for equal treatment of all citizens. As our mission statement explains, "Kentucky Equality Federation believes all people are endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment free from oppression, discrimination, school bullying, and hate crimes, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, veteran status, political affiliation, or any other defining characteristic."

According to The Harlan Daily Enterprise:

“Now, therefore, I Steven L. Beshear, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, by virtue of the authority vested in me pursuant to Section 118 of the Constitution of Kentucky, do hereby appoint the Honorable Henry Stuart Johnson… to the office of Circuit Judge for the 26th Judicial Circuit, of Kentucky,” said the order issued by Beshear.

“Judge Johnson shall serve subject to the provisions of Section 152 of the Constitution of Kentucky.”

Johnson served as commonwealth’s attorney in Harlan for nearly 20 years, beginning in 1992. He is currently in private practice. Johnson received his law degree from the University of Kentucky and began practicing law in 1976, according to previous reports.

Johnson was succeeded as commonwealth’s attorney after losing re-election to current Commonwealth’s Attorney Parker Boggs.

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