Mother Jones posts, "A Missouri Juror Tries To Save Man She Helped Send to Death Row," by Stephanie Mencimer.
Americans are generally supportive of the death penalty, although slightly less now than 20 years ago. But capital juries are especially partial to the death penalty, largely by design: only people who support capital punishment are allowed to serve on them. So Kimberly Turner is an unusual defector. In 1998, the 30-year-old single mom served on a Missouri jury that sentenced John Winfield to death for murdering two women who were friends of his former girlfriend. Winfield is scheduled to be executed on June 18, the seventh execution in the state since November.
Turner, though, doesn't think Winfield should die. She has told his lawyers that while serving on the jury, court officials pressured the jury to continue deliberating, even though at least two jurors wanted to vote for life without parole. According to Turner, the jury was already a bit of a pressure cooker. They had been sequestered for several days, and by Friday night, the jurors wanted to go home. Turner also had been struggling to find care for her daughter while she performed her civic duty. So in the end, she and another juror who'd wanted to spare Winfield's life caved and voted for death. But 16 years later, she still regrets that vote and has been helping Winfield challenge his conviction.
Attorneys for John Winfield have issued more information, "Missouri State NAACP, Victim’s Daughter and Former Juror Call on Governor Nixon to Grant Clemency to John Winfield. Growing Concern about Execution of “Model Prisoner” Scheduled for June 18 at 12:01 a.m. CT.
(Jefferson City, Missouri) Amid growing concern that the State of Missouri may be on the verge of executing a man who, by all accounts, is a model prisoner who does not deserve to die, prominent Missourians today are calling on Governor Jay Nixon to spare the life of John Winfield and commute his death sentence to life without parole. Mr. Winfield is scheduled for execution on June 18, 2014 at 12:01 a.m. CT.
The clemency petition, including letters urging clemency from the Missouri State NAACP Conference of Branches, the victim’s daughter, a former juror and other prominent individuals, is being delivered to Governor Nixon today.
The clemency petition states: “Mr. Winfield has rehabilitated himself after 18 years in prison. He mentors youth at Potosi Correctional Center and raises money for shelters and charities in St. Louis. Correctional staff at the St. Louis County Jail, where Mr. Winfield was held for two years before his trial, have described his positive influence on other prisoners and called him a unique example of the power of rehabilitation and ‘an ideal person to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole.’”
The clemency petition can be accessed at the link.
In its letter to the Governor, the Missouri State NAACP Conference of Branches wrote: “We support clemency for Mr. Winfield on several grounds, including the recent testimony from a juror at Mr. Winfield’s trial concerning the prosecutor’s manipulation of the nearly all-white jury’s racial biases, his family’s plea to spare Mr. Winfield’s life, and in particular the plea for mercy from Mr. Winfield’s daughter, whose mother was a victim of the crime, and Mr. Winfield’s exceptional adjustment to prison as a youth mentor and model inmate.”
Kimberly Turner, one of at least two jurors who voted to spare Mr. Winfield’s life, has asked the Governor for clemency and stated in a sworn declaration: “I recently learned that Mr. Winfield was a model inmate while he was in jail in St. Louis County awaiting trial, that he did not get in trouble, that he was a positive influence on other inmates, that he worked in prison and helped the guards, and that the guards trusted him. The guards did not want Mr. Winfield to be executed and thought that he would be productive and helpful if he served a life without parole sentence … If I had heard this evidence at trial, I would never have given into the pressure from the Court or the other jurors.”
Ms. Turner’s declaration can be accessed at the link.
The jury in Mr. Winfield’s case was all white except for one African American. Ms. Turner, one of the white jurors, stated in her sworn declaration that the prosecutor played upon the jury’s racial biases. She stated that the prosecutor painted Mr. Winfield as a “thug” who drove around St. Louis in a Cadillac with tinted windows. Due to the complete and admitted breakdown of Mr. Winfield’s trial attorneys, the jury did not hear that he was working hard to support his children or that he was trusted and respected by the county corrections officers.
Ms. Turner voted for life without parole, but she changed her vote after the court’s bailiff instructed the jurors to keep deliberating. The lone black juror also testified, under oath, that the bailiff told the jurors to keep deliberating at a time when they were split in their vote. A single vote for life without parole would have spared Mr. Winfield’s life.
In addition, Mr. Winfield’s daughter, Symone Winfield, whose mother was a victim of the crime, does not want her father executed. She stated in a sworn declaration: “My dad has been there for me at every step of my life, giving me encouragement, love, and support. I love him unconditionally and would be devastated if he were executed.” Ms. Winfield stated that she speaks with her father sometimes several times a day, he helps her family from prison, including preparing the paperwork so her grandmother could buy a house, and is engaged in her children’s lives.
The letter from the Missouri State NAACP Conference of Branches concludes:
“In addition to supporting his family, Mr. Winfield also serves as a positive influence and mentor to youth in prison and is described by inmates and corrections officers alike as a model inmate. He encourages younger inmates to abandon the negative influences in their lives, focus on family, and work toward establishing a productive life upon release. Mr. Winfield is known for his acts of kindness and generosity, from collecting tabs off of aluminum cans to raise money for a child cancer patient to helping illiterate prisoners write letters to their family, and he holds positions of leadership and responsibility in prison, including in the NAACP chapter. Mr. Winfield’s contributions to others in prison and to the young men who have since returned to society are valuable and we ask that you spare his life so that he may continue to make a difference.
“Please commute Mr. Winfield’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the interests of justice and mercy.”
The Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued a news release, "IACHR Urges United States to Suspend Execution of John Winfield." Here's the full text:
Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the United States to suspend the judicial execution of John Winfield, beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR. The execution is scheduled to take place on June 18, 2014, in the state of Missouri.
The IACHR granted precautionary measures to protect the life and physical integrity of John Winfield on June 6, 2014. The request for precautionary measures had been filed in the context of a petition alleging the violation of rights set forth in the American Declaration. Through the precautionary measures, the Commission asked the United States to refrain from carrying out the death penalty until the IACHR had the opportunity to issue a decision on the petitioner's claims regarding the alleged violations of the American Declaration. The Commission is processing the petition, which is currently in the admissibility stage of the proceedings. Both in the petition and the request for precautionary measures the petitioner argues that the method of execution is incompatible with international human rights standards, and that the state in question has failed to provide information about the drugs to be used in the execution.
The failure of a Member State of the Organization of American States to heed a request that it preserve a condemned prisoner's life pending review of his or her petition seriously contravenes its international legal obligations. This deprives condemned persons in the United States of their right to petition before the inter-American human rights system prior to the execution of the death penalty.
The Commission urges the United States to implement the precautionary measures regarding John Winfield until the Commission can issue a decision on the case, and to fully and properly respect its international human rights obligations, especially those derived from the American Declaration and the OAS Charter. In this regard, the IACHR expects the United States to suspend this execution.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
Earlier coverage of John Winfield's case begins at the link.