STATEMENT OF LEAD CLEMENCY COUNSEL REV. CHARLES FELS
ON BEHALF OF THE DON JOHNSON CLEMENCY TEAM
Don Johnson has shown he is a person who is deserving of mercy. Although we appreciate Governor Lee and his staff for carefully considering our application for clemency for Don, we, along with thousands of Christians in Tennessee and around the world, are deeply saddened by today’s decision. Also disappointed are thousands of citizens who had hoped that Governor Lee would use his unique constitutional clemency power to consider matters that no court could, including moral transformation, forgiveness, and the entire positive arc of Don’s life after 1984.
We respect the Governor’s decision, and Don accepts it as God’s will.
Don is at peace and accepts the call to a new life in Christ. He prays for the Governor, the Warden and his staff, Connie, Cynthia and Jason and for all those who he has injured in the past. Don gives thanks to the many Christian friends who have supported him for many decades. He gives particular thanks to the pastors and people of Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church who ordained, supported and loved him in his journey, and to the Dysinger family who have been with him in song and in prayer for the past 15 years. Don’s faith is strong, and he knows where his journey leads.
Supporters of Don Johnson and Cynthia Vaughn have formally asked Governor Lee to commute Don Johnson’s sentence from death to life imprisonment. Johnson’s plea for mercy is grounded in his sincere Christian Faith, the Forgiveness of Cynthia Vaughn, and the Redemption that those two factors has wrought. Their journey is truly remarkable.
May 11, 2019: Over 100 People Attended Today’s Prayer Rally for Mercy and Healing
BREAKING: CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF TENNESSEE URGE GOVERNOR LEE TO SHOW MERCY TO DON JOHNSON Details here: https://tennesseeregister.com/news/as-execution-looms-case-for-clemency-hinges-on-extraordinary-act-of-forgiveness
Dear Friends of Don and Cynthia,
We are honored to ask for clemency for Don Johnson. We are blessed to stand with Cynthia Vaughn in asking that Don’s life be spared. Our campaign to seek mercy from Governor Bill Lee is based on three great truths: the power of Faith, the truth of Forgiveness, and the wonder of Redemption.
Forty years ago, Don Johnson lived in darkness. His heart was empty. He had no love for himself, or for others. His education in the most abusive juvenile reformatories of Tennessee had taught him selfishness, hate, and violence. In this state of moral despair he brought himself to death row, by his deeds, and by his avarice. Then in prison he discovered the power of Faith. The Good News came to him, and found fertile ground. The emptiness in his heart was filled. Don discovered the wonder of caring about others more than himself. Don now shares the wonder of Faith with so many others, in prison, in our community, and around the world. He is a messenger of joy, healing, and peace, and of the wonder of God’s love.
As Don grew in his Faith, he prayed for Forgiveness. Don had grievously wounded Cynthia Vaughn, his step-daughter, by ending the life of her mother, Connie Johnson. For years Cynthia had hoped for Don’s execution. She wanted to “see the freak fry.” But, in 2012, she felt moved to visit Don on death row to tell him how much he had hurt her, to unleash her full anger, sadness and loss upon him. It had been her intent to “let him have it,” and then leave. But, as Cynthia boiled over with rage, Don accepted all of her accusations and condemnations without flinching or excuse. Tears poured down his face. He admitted his guilt to her. And to her astonishment Cynthia heard a voice say to her “Let it go.” And in that moment Cynthia discovered that she forgave Don. Today, Cynthia asks that Governor Lee do the same and spare Don’s life.
Cynthia’s Forgiveness of Don was essential in bringing about the miracle of Redemption. Don’s journey from the darkness into the light would not be complete without Cynthia. Their coming together demonstrates that through Faith, and with Forgiveness, all things are possible. Don Johnson conclusively proves that even the most vile of sinners can be Redeemed. None of us are eternally doomed by our worst act. As Don Johnson establishes, all of us can overcome evil and become a force for good.
We now issue a Call to Action, and we encourage all people who have been touched by Don and Cynthia to join us in a campaign for mercy, a campaign for life. Governor Lee is a good man and a man of deep faith. Those who serve him are people of integrity and openness of spirit. We trust that an honest campaign based on Faith, Forgiveness and Redemption will touch the heart of Governor Lee and inspire him to show mercy towards Don Johnson and compassion towards Cynthia. Please join us. Together, with God’s blessing, we may prevail.
The Campaign to Support Don Johnson and Cynthia Vaughn
Please follow the links for Faith, Forgiveness, and Redemption to learn more about Don and Cynthia. Please follow the link A Call for Action, to learn what you can do as part of this campaign. Please share this website, and these truths with others in your community.
Legal Status: Don Johnson’s execution is scheduled for May 16, 2019. His application for clemency may be acted on by Governor Bill Lee at any time prior to that date (or even on May 16, 2019). Governor Bill Lee has the power under the Tennessee Constitution, Article Three, to pardon Don Johnson or to commute his sentence. However, the clemency application seeks a commutation of his death sentence to one of life.