Vietnam Vet's Execution Put Off in Florida

GOV. Lawton Chiles (D) has stayed this week's scheduled execution of a decorated Vietnam veteran in a case that has rallied veterans who say the man should be spared because he was traumatized by war.

Larry Joe Johnson was sentenced to death for the 1979 murder of a service station attendant. Vietnam veteran advocates say Johnson suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and that his nickname on death row is "time bomb."

The governor's stay is indefinite.

The seven justices of the state Supreme Court voted unanimously Friday to deny the appeal. But three of the justices issued a separate opinion, saying they were only going along with the majority for procedural reasons. In the opinion they said the legal system had failed and that if Johnson were tried now, the procedures used 13 years ago would not be allowed.

Mark Schlakman, Mr. Chiles attorney, said, "In special deference to the intensity of that opinion, the governor wanted to consider this matter further."

Justice Gerald Kogan said he was disturbed the legal system would put to death a man whose suffering stemmed from military service.

Johnson devoted 12 years of his life to defending his nation and was then "abandoned without the medical intervention he obviously needed after being injured while on his nation's business," Justice Kogan wrote.

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