After the verdict, Johnson sat on death row in a prison in Huntsville, Texas, for 10 years. He received several stays of execution and lodged numerous appeals. Central to his case was a supposed confession, signed by Vest, after the two were arrested.
Johnson’s attorney appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that Vest’s confession had been improperly suppressed by the prosecutors. Police later explained that the two men had both been indicted as if they were the shooters; Vest’s signature was to affirm that the indictment was correct and was not in any way a confession.
The court’s verdict was affirmed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1997 and a judicial review appeal to the Supreme Court was denied in 1998. An application for a writ of habeas corpus was denied in 2000. Three other appeals and attempts at judicial review were lodged but all failed.
Johnson’s date for execution was finally set at 6pm on 19 October 2006. He was put on suicide watch for 36 hours before his execution, in keeping with normal procedure, and was checked every 15 minutes.
At 2.45am on 19 October 2006, Johnson was found in a pool of blood in his cell. He had sliced open an artery in his arm with a blade attached to a wooden ice-cream stick and had written in blood on the wall, “I did not shoot him”. He had then slashed his throat with the homemade knife.
Johnson was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead, aged 29, on 19 October 2006.