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Delaware death row inmate faces execution on April 20

WILMINGTON, Del. — A Delaware death row inmate who has waived his right to further appeals of his conviction and death sentence was given an April 20 execution date on Wednesday.

Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady ordered the April execution of Shannon Johnson after Johnson waived his right to a requirement that an execution be held no sooner than 90 days from the sentencing date.

Johnson was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Cameron Hamlin, 25, who was shot after Johnson found him sitting in a car with Johnson’s ex-girlfriend near downtown Wilmington. Johnson later shot the former girlfriend, but she survived.

After the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence in 2009, Johnson said he did not want to pursue any further appeals.

“The court system has prevailed here and we can start having closure here in the Hamlin family,” Vandrick Hamlin, the victim’s father, said after Wednesday’s brief sentencing hearing.

“I think the judge sent a message out to the thugs and killers that you will not get away with murder here in the city of Wilmington.”

After Johnson sought to waive all further appeals following the state Supreme Court’s decision, federal public defenders tried to intervene in his case without his consent, arguing that Johnson was incompetent because he was mentally disabled. After Brady refused to allow them to participate in a state court competency hearing, they defied her order to turn over their files on Johnson to state prosecutors and Johnson’s state court attorneys.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Sleet last year ordered the federal public defenders to turn over their files to state prosecutors and defense attorneys. He also voided their appointments to represent Johnson, declaring that they had misled the federal court into believing that they were acting with his knowledge and consent.

Steadfast opposition to appeals

In a ruling last month in which she cited reports from several mental health experts, Brady declared that Johnson was not mentally disabled, was mentally competent to waive his right to further appeals, and that he understood the legal consequences of that decision.

Johnson’s defense attorney, Jennifer-Kate Aaronson, said after Wednesday’s hearing that he has been “steadfast” in his opposition to all further appeals.

“He fervently hopes no zealot files state or federal proceedings to override his competent decision,” she said.

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