Oklahoma | I went inside death row, what I saw made me sick - Henry McLeish

The evolution of civilised behaviour, indicating a retreat from barbarism, has become a distinctive feature of most modern western democracies, but America often disappoints, retaining practices that shock, sadden, and in my case, nearly made me physically sick.
My visit to death row at McAlester State Penitentiary, Oklahoma, brought home to me, how the final setting for government sponsored killings, combined with execution by lethal injection, brought a brutal end to lives. And made a mockery of the idea of justice, offering instead a violent, humiliating, and inhuman act of revenge, with no serious pretence that any of these end of life dramas, provide any deterrence in criminal justice terms. Formerly known as “Indian Territory”, and home of the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma, with a population of over 4 million, became a state in 1907. Located in America’s “Bible” belt, where there is a strong fundamentalist Christian tradition and powerful Republican politics, Oklahoma remains a pro…

Missouri executes Walter Barton

Walter Barton
A Missouri man convicted in the 1991 killing of his former landlord was executed Tuesday evening, becoming the first death row inmate to die in the United States since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic in early March. 

The ACLU confirmed the execution.

Walter Barton, 64, died by lethal injection in a state prison in Bonne Terre, south of St. Louis, Missouri corrections officials said. His last words were: “I, Walter ‘Arkie’ Barton, am innocent and they are executing an innocent man!!”

Despite pleas in recent days from supporters and his defense team calling into question whether he was wrongly convicted of murder, Gov. Mike Parson said Monday he would not stop the execution.

Other states, including Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, have postponed scheduled executions while corrections officials handle the deepening health crisis, which has overwhelmed many correctional facilities across the country.

Barton had been tried five times for the murder of Gladys Kuehler, 81, who operated a mobile home park south of Springfield, Missouri.

RELATED Missouri Governor Mike Parson: Execution of Walter Barton “will move forward as scheduled”

Barton, a former tenant of Kuehler's, was living out of his car and reportedly visited Kuehler's granddaughter and a neighbor at the property on the night she was beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed 52 times.

RELATED Court clears way for Tuesday execution of Missouri man who claims innocence in murder

While blood was found on Barton's clothing, he maintained his innocence at each of his trials. His case has lingered in the court system over the decades because of mistrials and appeals. A fifth trial in 2006 ended in a guilty verdict and a death sentence.

On Sunday, a federal appeals court vacated Barton's petition for post-conviction relief that might have delayed his execution. The court ruled that there was no new evidence.

But in recent weeks, Barton's attorney, Frederick Duchardt Jr., got affidavits from three jurors who had convicted Barton to agree that they now have doubts about his guilty verdict.

At the heart of the case has been whether the prosecution's blood spatter evidence — a form of forensic analysis that has been questioned in recent years over its accuracy — was properly countered by Barton's defense team at his 2006 trial.

RELATED | USA | The First Execution of the Pandemic

Since then, Barton's current defense team ordered an independent bloodstain analysis. 

According to the examiner, the small bloodstains on Barton's clothing were consistent with his version of events that night and that the actual killer's clothes would have been soaked in blood, given the victim's wounds.

The Innocence Project and others had attempted to stop the execution, citing unreliable evidence and concerns over how previous state prosecutors have handled convictions of inmates later cleared of their crimes.

Barton's execution was the first in the U.S. since March 5, when Alabama inmate Nate Woods was executed for his role in the fatal shootings of three Birmingham police officers in 2004.

Given the coronavirus outbreak, corrections officials in Missouri said they had to consider precautionary measures involved with planning an execution, including submitting prison visitors to temperature checks and dividing them into three separate rooms for social distancing.

Barton becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Missouri, and the 90th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1989.  Only Texas (569), Virginia (113), Oklahoma (112), and Florida (99) have carried out more executions since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976.

Barton becomes the 6th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1,518th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 2, 1977.

Source: nbcnews.com, Erik Ortiz; Rick Halperin, May 20, 2020

Missouri executes first US inmate put to death during coronavirus pandemic

Missouri's death chamber
(CNN) -- Missouri carried out the first execution in the country Tuesday since the rapid escalation of the coronavirus outbreak in the US.

Walter Barton was executed Tuesday by the state of Missouri at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC).

Barton, 64, had been found guilty in 2006 of the 1991 murder of an 81-year old acquaintance, according to court documents. He had maintained his innocence throughout. After multiple trials and appeals, the US Supreme Court denied Barton's request for a stay Tuesday.

Barton was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. CDT, according to the DOC.

The last execution to take place in the US was on March 5 in Alabama, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

At that time there were 161 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 11 deaths from the disease, according to CNN's reporting of cases and fatalities from that date. As of Tuesday evening there were at least 1,528,568 coronavirus cases in the US and at least 91,921 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

At the correctional center, witnesses to the execution were screened with temperature checks and were provided with face covers and hand sanitizer, said Karen Pojmann, communications director for the DOC.

The last execution at the Bonne Terre facility took place Oct. 1, 2019 and no other executions are currently scheduled, according to Pojmann.

CNN has reached out to Barton's attorney, Frederick A. Duchardt Jr., for comment.

"The last two executions in the United States, Nathaniel Woods on March 5 in Alabama and Walter Barton tonight in Missouri, are bookends to injustice. The last state to carry out an execution before the pandemic and the only state reckless enough to carry put an execution during the pandemic have almost certainly both executed innocent men," Dunham said.

Source: CNN, Chris Boyette, May 20, 2020

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde


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