ST. LOUIS – A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a Missouri death row inmate to be executed Tuesday and ordered his petition for post-conviction relief dismissed, despite questions raised about evidence used to convict him.
The Sunday decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacates a 30-day stay of execution granted Friday to Walter Barton by a federal judge.
The execution would be the first in the U.S. since March 5 and is scheduled despite concerns about the coronavirus that prompted other states to postpone lethal injections. Barton, 64, is set to die by lethal injection for the 1991 killing of 81-year-old trailer park operator Gladys Kuehler.
Kuehler was beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed more than 50 times in Ozark, near Springfield. The federal judge on Friday had decided the court needed more time to consider issues raised by Barton's attorneys, including new concerns about blood spatter evidence used to convict him.
Prosecutors appealed the judge's stay, and the 8th Circuit said it saw "no possibility of success" on Barton's claims, which it said presented no new evidence.
Barton's attorney, Fred Duchardt Jr., said last week that three jurors involved in Barton's 2006 trial now express misgivings, based on new blood spatter evidence.
A blood spatter expert hired by the defense found the assailant would have had far more blood on his clothing than was found on Barton's clothing. Duchardt said three jurors recently signed affidavits saying the new evidence would have affected their deliberations. The jury foreman said, based on the evidence, he would have been "uncomfortable" recommending the death penalty, Duchardt said.
The NAACP and Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty submitted more than 5,000 petition signatures Wednesday to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, urging him to grant clemency to Barton.
Barton's case has been tied up in court for years due to mistrials, appeals and two overturned convictions. He has maintained his innocence throughout.