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Will John Winfield Be the Fourth Inmate Missouri Executes During A Federal Appeal?

Categories: Death Penalty

johnwinfield111.png
John Winfield.
Missouri's affair with the death penalty has become a monthly ordeal. Six inmates have been executed since November, and it would have been seven if not for a convicted murderer's birth defect.

Now, we've got June 18 to look forward to -- that's the date John Winfield is scheduled to die for murdering two women in 1996. But Winfield's lawyer worries that Missouri will prematurely kill his client before the higher courts can fully review his motions. That's not a baseless worry, either.

"It's only Missouri that has this nasty habit of executing people while state remedies are still pending," says attorney Joesph Luby, who cites three other recent executions where Missouri offed an inmate before receiving the federal go-ahead to do so.

See also: Attorney General Koster Thinks Missouri Should Make Its Own Execution Drugs

On Wednesday, Luby appeared in the Cole County 19th Judicial Circuit Court to challenge the Missouri Department of Corrections over the secrecy around its execution drug; similar lawsuits have been filed by local and national news media, as well as death-row inmates in other states.

But Missouri's secrecy is just one part of the dysfunction, says Luby. He points to the January execution of Herbert Smulls, who was pronounced dead 30 minutes before the U.S. Supreme Court denied his final appeal.

"What would have happened if the state had killed Mr. Smulls and the United States Supreme Court were to rule that we're staying this man's execution?" Luby says.

See also: How the Supreme Court Makes Last-Minute Decisions on Missouri Executions

If the state pulls the same move on Winfield in June, he would be the fourth inmate in the past five executions to get this macabre early-bird special: The first was serial killer Joseph Franklin in November, then Allen Nicklasson in December and then Smulls a month later.

In an open letter sent to Republican state representative Jay Barnes in February, Luby described the state's tendency to ignore death -inmates' pending federal reviews.

  • Luby filed Franklin's final appeal in the U.S. District Court on November 19. He says he contacted the state's attorneys by email at 5:24 a.m. to request that they stay the execution until the motion was reviewed. The state apparently ignored that email and began Franklin's execution at 6:07 a.m..
  • Nicklasson was executed under "similarly troubling circumstances" on December 12, writes Luby. He describes another last minute request for appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court. The state did not wait for the federal judges to review that appeal either.
  • Smulls' execution brought a wave of scrutiny against Missouri officials after they brazenly ignored a pending review for appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. Writing in The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen remarked that "Herbert Smulls may be dead and gone but his case and his cause continue to hang over this state like a ghost."

Luby isn't the only one upset with Missouri's overly expeditious executions. In his dissent on the federal ruling that lifted the stay of execution for Nicklasson, Eighth U.S. Circuit Court Judge Kermit Bye criticized the the layers of dysfunction in the state's execution process, including its prior trust in an error-prone doctor to administer the killing drugs. Bye wrote:

Missouri's past history of scheduling executions before a death row inmate has exhausted his constitutional rights of review, using unwritten execution protocols, misrepresenting dosage levels for drugs used in lethal injections, and providing unfettered discretion to a dyslexic physician to mix the drugs and oversee its executions, has earned from this federal judge more than just a healthy judicial skepticism regarding Missouri's implementation of the death penalty.

In addition to the lawsuit demanding Missouri reveal the source of its execution drugs, Winfield is also suing the warden of Potosi Correctional Center. His lawsuit alleges prison officials intimidated a staff member there who was planning on writing letters supporting Winfield's petition for clemency.

The staff member describes Winfield as among the "elite 1 percent of all inmates," citing his compassion toward other prisoners, including those with special needs. But the day after the employee notified his supervisors that he was supporting Winfield, prison officials opened an investigation against the staff member as "suspect" for his "overfamiliarity" with Winfield, according to the suit.

Fearing for his job, the staff member apologized to Luby's co-counsel and said he could not write the letter of support. The suit claims that the "investigation" targeting the staff member would actually prohibit him from writing such a letter, because an employee under investigation is technically not permitted to participate in activities potentially related to the investigation.

Continue for copies of Winfield's lawsuit, as well as a federal judge's blistering critique of Missouri's execution policy.


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48 comments
PieCatLady
PieCatLady

Way below, Wind_569 says "there is not one single person that has been executed in the modern era that has been proven to be innocent."  Been doing some research.  Chapter 20 of a 2014 report by the American Bar Association discusses capital punishment.  In 1989 Carlos DeLuna was executed because he looked just like the real murderer; his innocence was discovered too late.  Not modern enough? Here are some 21st Century cases: Claude Jones in 2000, Desmond Carter in 2002, Joseph Keel in 2003, Cameron Willingham in 2004.  Read 'em yourself, Wind, at americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/criminaljustice/SCJ2014_Capital _Punishment.


Whether you are for or against the death penalty, you should read this report.

PieCatLady
PieCatLady

In a recent survey, fifty-five percent of Americans polled prefer the government to impose life without parole (LWOP) instead of death. Below "wind_569" says LWOP can be commuted.  Maybe so, but the state doesn't pay for public defenders to appeal non-death verdicts. The poor are more likely than the wealthy to be sentenced to death to begin with.  With LWOP instead (no public defender) how will they pay for an appeal to get the sentence reduced?  If there's compelling evidence of injustice/innocence, they might find non-profit help.  As for deterrence, hard time lockdown in maximum security prisons stops violence among the incarcerated.  Mind now, I wish lengthy incarceration wasn't necessary -  but both proponents and opponents of the death penalty agree:  the worst offenders have to be isolated from society. 

wind_569
wind_569

This is a very intellectually dishonest article.  But typical of an anti-death penalty "journalist." If a person files an appeal and want the execution stayed until that is decided, he has to ask the court for a stay.  If a federal or state court wants an execution halted until it decides an appeal, the court MUST issue a stay. In the Smulls case, there were NO stays in place.  Missouri actually conferred with the Clerk of the US Supreme Court to double check if there was a stay and they were told there was not and to proceed with the execution.  If you say no execution can take place while an appeal is pending, no execution will EVER happen. Because defense attorneys will always file a new appeal, no matter how groundless, there will still be an appeal pending. 

murphythekid
murphythekid

Dear Fuckboy as writer of this story.....one the two women he killed that night was MY SISTER!!!!! Aint shit innocent about this man.  Fuck You and Your STAFF!!!!


Adam Murphy 314 327 9860 ........We can meet face to face if you want.  Aint shit to me. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter


Death is NOT a Penalty


Death ENDS Suffering.



JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

"before receiving the federal go-ahead to do so." WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Does the journalist even begin to understand the US Constitution? Try read the Tenth Amendment to the Bill of Rights. The Feds can stop an execution, but they do not get any sort of "go-ahead" to the States. Are the editors at the RFT still seeking a monarchy? "By your leave" sort of rulings? Does no one even care that we are sovereign people of sovereign states that form a union?

Lee Collier
Lee Collier

Eye for a an eye....cause you follow Judaic law daily, yeah?

David Koehler
David Koehler

Execution is a deterrent. Eye for an eye. Fuck political correctness.

Tom Davis
Tom Davis

I believe in capitol punishment for petty crime. Fry'em!

Lee Collier
Lee Collier

Scott Shemaker, it is basically. However, the State is not forcing abortion on anyone. Unless you are on death row, then that is eXtreme Late Term Abortion.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Abortion. ? That's murder to me and supported and funded with our tax dollars

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

The number varies as high as 25% so there is no definitive number. The use of DNA has drastically lowered the number. In this case in the story there is no doubt he did it.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

If more than two witnesses see the murder committed, there is no doubt. Collin Ferguson in NYC. 6% seams high I will have to research that.

Randy Clark
Randy Clark

Well, fortunately you don't have any say in the matter. It's been proven at least 6% of all people sentenced to death in this country are innocent. And to execute someone while they're waiting for a federal appeal decision is more about a Republican dominated state showing its ass to a federal government currently dominated by Democrats than anything else.To kill as a political statement could only be considered acceptable in a redneck cracker backwater like Missouri.One other thing. Reflector aviator shades went out in the 1970's.

Chris Jordan
Chris Jordan

The pending appeal had nothing to do with the substance of his case. The appeal had to do with the execution drugs the state is using and a lawsuit against the warden. Both are just excuses for delay. Did his victims get to review the method by which THEY were killed? How many bites at the apple should a killer get? How many chances did he give his victims? The story also talks about a prison staff member who was writing a petition to gain clemency for the killer. The reason being he is a model prisoner and helped people while in prison. So? What does that have to do with the people he killed? Execution is a measure used to ensure people like him never get the chance to repeat their crime.

Jon Ackley
Jon Ackley

I think this is more of a constitutional issue rather than whether or not this guy should die. The point is, ignoring rights given to us by the constitution is inherently wrong. Even if it means that murderous pieces of human garbage, like this guy, catch a break. Frankly, I think the whole 20-year-plus-death-row-appeal-process is a joke. But, if I were the one with my ass in a sling for whatever reason, I would want due process.

Leslee Brown
Leslee Brown

If you do something worthy of getting the death penalty then you get what you deserve. It's not justice for the victims when it takes 20 plus years for the final justice to be dispensed

Lee Collier
Lee Collier

Jeff Willett good for you. I'm glad that your morals include a nod to state-issued murder.

Paula Williams
Paula Williams

Why has Missouri become such a right wing nut state???? Harry Truman must be spinning in his grave.

Bob Stclair
Bob Stclair

To bad we're not Texas ! They put in a express lane !

Sheila Smith
Sheila Smith

The state of Missouri has a nasty habit of charging people with no evidence too. Missouri is a joke when it comes to following their own damn rules and their whacky backasswards UNjustice system.

Lee Collier
Lee Collier

I'm a liberal because I don't believe the government of any nation or state should be allowed to murder its citizens.

Rob Andrews
Rob Andrews

RFT Really amping up the liberal rhetoric today. I wonder if they seriously believe some of the garbage they print?

PieCatLady
PieCatLady

I will add that I'm also appalled that Missouri executes while appeals are ongoing. My home state, Georgia, plans to one-up the Show Me State and kill Marcus Wellons on June 17th.

PieCatLady
PieCatLady

I read another article about Winfield's crime, following by 14 acidic comments about how much he needs to be executed FAST.  Not one word about the slain officer's wife and her suffering.  The article quoted her, and it was actually painful to read it.  She said, "After 6 years, you would think it gets easier, but deep down it hurts so much - some days it feels like it happened yesterday, while others it seems like a lifetime since we've been able just to hug him." 


That is just plain heart-rending, full of sorrow and longing for even another minute with the good man she loves and misses.  I pray for her to find closure and some measure of comfort. 


I doubt she'll find it when Winfield gets put down. Opponents say we are whiners who don't care about victims because we say ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY. Those folks (like the 14 who responded to the article) are heartily ready for the State to kill those who kill.  But where were their statements of empathy for the victim?  I do see such remarks fairly often, yes, but it shocked me that after reading the poor woman's quote, not one person said anything about her. Comments were closed for that page, or I would have responded there.


We want to stop State-sponsored killing, not because we feel sorry for the criminals on death row, not because we want them coddled and freed.  NO WAY! Life without parole is punishment enough. Prison is a wretched place to call home, and It costs less to house and feed inmates than execute them.  Removing the appeals process that guarantees equal protection under the law is not the way to "fix" the problem.


Let's not kid ourselves.  No method of imposing deliberate death is humane - just knowing you are about to be killed is psychological torture, never mind the specific method used.  What about the estimated 4% that are likely innocent? That's an intolerable margin of error.  Execution is cruel and inhuman punishment.  Alas, it's far too "usual" in the 12 states that still make us, We the People, complicit in this barbaric practice.


I know some of you want the condemned to suffer horribly, and that makes me wonder about you.  You sound vicious about this issue and I wonder if that attitude carries over into your daily life.


I oppose the death penalty for spiritual and moral reasons.  Jesus Christ clearly states:  "Do not return evil for evil.  If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven.  If you do not show mercy, your Father in heaven will not show mercy to you." 


I'm appalled by the actions of criminals who don't have a lick of mercy as they kill. Does that give us the right to do the same?


There are many reasons to end executions in America.  Check out www.ncadp.org.  We are not whiners or bleeding hearts or whatever.  We are 90 million strong, we have a voice and we will be heard.  NOT IN MY NAME!

Oscar Alvarez
Oscar Alvarez

How about the two women he killed prematurely? The problem is that we don't put the dogs down soon enough.

Tony Merklin
Tony Merklin

We're Rooting for Execution......Take OUT the Trash.............

Twana Wangler
Twana Wangler

If they have an execution date, they have exhausted all of their appeals. These last minute bullsh** attempts to prolong the inevitable, are a waste of our tax dollars.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Nasty habit ? Your right. We should shoot them right after the jury finds them guilty !

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Execution has deterred the executed from ever committing another crime. This is not some silly joke. Criminals in prison commit horrible crimes, too. Besides, life in prison without the possibility of parole is a cruel sentence.

PieCatLady
PieCatLady

Missouri interfered with its own clemency policy, and Federal Judge Catherine Perry has issued a temporary stay for Winfield. The clemency letter has now been forwarded to Governor Jay Nixon, so the State is asking for the stay to be lifted.


You ask what all this has to do with Winfield's victims - as if killing him will really provide closure for them. True closure, in any tragic situation in life, comes from acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness.  Otherwise the pain just festers in the heart. LWOP ensures Winfield never gets the chance to repeat his crime. As JamesMadison (below) comments, it is a terrible punishment. Actually cruel.  Isn't it enough?  

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

The Constitution grants the Feds to stop the execution, but the State does not have to wait if a stay of execution is not timely. We are not "by your leave" sort of government. We carry out our laws unless the proper authorities file the proper papers to stay an execution.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

During Harry times in this state, plenty were executed. In fact, the old Democrat party was much more conservative than the current Republican party. Harry would be wondering how left wing zealots became so popular, and started invoking his name to their causes.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Blame the Missouri Attorney General, Koster(?), a democrat.

And if your comment about "following their own damn rules" applies to this article, EXACTLY right that they do! Follow the rules. The Laws of the land. The Feds can grant a stay of execution at anytime, but the State does not need to sit on their hands waiting for the Fed's blessing.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Liberal murder people, too. Obama had US citizens targeted and killed overseas. The liberals said very little. Clinton bombed camels and tents to distract his impeachment. If this is your one cause for being a liberal, consider libertarianism. It might fit your ideology better.

wind_569
wind_569

I must disagree wtih you.  FIrst, there is no such thing as life without parole. It can always be commuted.  Additionally, LWOP is already being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional as well.  Your arguement that the death penalty can never be done humanely because just the knowledge that it is coming is punishment is a joke.  You do realize that WE WILL ALL DIE, right?  99% of us will suffer a death (heart attack, stroke, car accident) that will be much much more painful than lethal injection, electric chair, firing squad.  As for the idea that 4% are innocent, you do realize that there is not one single person that has been executed in the modern era that has been proven to have been innocent? With advances in DNA and video surveillance, etc, it is increasingly unlikely that any innocent would ever be executed.  However, innocent men women and children are murdered every single day in this world by criminals. 

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@PieCatLady , I find "Life without parole is punishment enough" is a cruel sentence. To live without hope of freedom is to deprive a person of their life. Your lifetime imprisonment is very cruel. It is a death sentence that tortures their souls for years. "Give me liberty or give me death" is something all free people deserve and desire. Some choose to be slaves to give their liberty up for their life. How sad of an existence that must be. Cruel and inhumane. We would never allow the State to do the same to a dog.

PieCatLady
PieCatLady

@wind_569 I do agree - life without parole is a horrible punishment.  Maybe it is worse than death, but it leaves room for change and redemption.  I think it would be psychological torture to go through the process of getting ready to be killed, strapped down, lying there waiting for the drugs to work - IF they work as the State intends. (Or strapped in the electric chair or the chair in front of the firing squad.)  Sometimes the condemned gets strapped down and then gets a last minute stay - it happened to one man four times in one execution attempt. That is inhumane. 


The difference in our deaths in the free world is that we don't know to the day and hour when they will happen.  You knew that.


I'm not sure about executed innocents.  I have read a lot of condemned prisoners' last words, people who were executed in the last few years. Many protested their innocence to the end. That got to me, because they gained nothing by saying so as they were being killed. Once a case is closed by execution, many states won't reconsider what was done.  You could say they don't want to find out if they did happen to kill the wrong person.


I believe there is no humane way to execute because deliberate killing is WRONG.  It's wrong when a criminal does it, and it's wrong when the state does it. I don't want it to be done in MY name.  Now 55% of Americans polled prefer life without parole to the death penalty, so I am not alone.

PieCatLady
PieCatLady

@murphythekid @PieCatLady I do sincerely care about your loss.  Your ugly words show your pain. Tell the truth, will you feel healed once Winfield is executed?  It can't bring your sister back. Will you let go of your hatred once the man you hate is gone?  I won't call you any ugly names or cuss you.  God bless you - I hope you find the Lord and find closure.

PieCatLady
PieCatLady

@JamesMadison @PieCatLady I actually agree with you.  LWOP is cruel.  Yet most condemned prisoners want to live. So you think life in prison is cruel and inhumane but capital punishment isn't? Let's hope neither one of us ever has to find out which is worse!

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