MISSOURI (USA): WALTER BARTON EXECUTED
May 20, 2020:
Walter Barton, 64, White, was put to death on 19 May 2020 for fatally stabbing Gladys Kuehler, an 81-year-old woman, on 9 October 1991, the first U.S. execution since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. (Sources: Associated Press, usatoday.com, 19/05/2020)
Barton had long maintained he was innocent of killing Kuehler, and his case was tied up for years due to appeals, mistrials and two overturned convictions. His fate was sealed when neither the courts nor Gov. Mike Parson intervened. Barton breathed heavily five times after the lethal drug entered his body Tuesday evening, then suddenly stopped. In his final statement released prior to his execution, Barton said: "I, Walter "Arkie" Barton, am innocent and they are executing an innocent man!!" Concerns related to the coronavirus caused several states to postpone or cancel executions over the past 2 ½ months. Ohio, Tennessee and Texas were among states calling off executions. Barton's attorney, Fred Duchardt Jr., and attorneys for death row inmates in the other states argued that the pandemic prevented them from safely conducting thorough investigations for clemency petitions and last-minute appeals. They said they were unable to secure records or conduct interviews due to closures. Attorneys also expressed concerns about interacting with individuals and possibly being exposed to the virus, and they worried that the close proximity of witnesses and staff at executions could lead to spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Barton was executed in Bonne Terre, at a prison that has no confirmed cases of the virus. Strict protocols were in place to protect workers and visitors from exposure to the coronavirus. Barton often spent time at the mobile home park that Kuehler operated. He was with her granddaughter and a neighbor on the evening of 9 October 1991, when they found her dead in her bedroom. Police noticed what appeared to be blood stains on Barton's clothing, and DNA tests confirmed it was Kuehler's. Barton said the stains must have occurred when he pulled Kuehler's granddaughter away from the body. The granddaughter first confirmed that account, but testified that Barton never came into the bedroom. A blood spatter expert at Barton's trial said the three small stains likely resulted from the "impact" of the knife. In new court filings, Duchardt cited the findings of Lawrence Renner, who examined Barton's clothing and boots. Renner concluded the killer would have had far more blood stains. Duchardt said three jurors recently signed affidavits calling Renner's determination "compelling" and saying it would have affected their deliberations. The jury foreman said, based on the evidence, he would have been "uncomfortable" recommending the death penalty. Barton becomes the 1st executed this year in Missouri, the 89th since Missouri resumed executions in 1989, the 6th of the year in the United States, and the No. 1518 since the US reintroduced the death penalty in 1976 and executions resumed in 1977.