Cory Johnson

In announcing the scheduled execution of Cory Johnson, the United States Department of Justice noted that “Cory Johnson murdered seven people — Peyton Johnson, Louis Johnson, Bobby Long, Dorothy Armstrong, Anthony Carter, Linwood Chiles, and Curtis Thorne — in furtherance of his drug-trafficking activities. 

Between 1989 and July 1992, Johnson and several co-conspirators, including federal death-row inmates Richard Tipton and James Roane, were partners in a large drug-trafficking conspiracy based in Richmond, Virginia.  In early 1992, Johnson went on a killing spree, shooting and killing each of the seven victims for perceived slights or rivalry in the drug trade.  Johnson shot one victim at close range after ordering him to place his head on a car steering wheel.  Johnson shot and killed another victim at the victim’s home when he failed to pay for crack cocaine — and Johnson also murdered the victim’s sister and a male acquaintance. 

In February 1993, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found Johnson guilty of numerous federal offenses, including seven counts of capital murder, and unanimously recommended seven death sentences, which the court imposed. “

Johnson, a member of a crack cocaine ring that began in New York and New Jersey in the late 1980s before expanding into Richmond, was tried under the statutory authority of the 1988 Continuing Criminal Enterprise provision of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, better known as the “drug kingpin” statute.

Johnson’s conviction and death sentence were upheld on appeal in 2004 (United States v. Johnson, 378 F.3d 382, 2004).

Cory Johnson was executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on January 14, 2021, less than a week before the inauguration of a new president would have delayed and probably prevented his execution.

Along with Juan Raul Garza, Johnson is one of only two people executed under the federal drug kingpin statute.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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