"Missouri inmate Winfield seeks stay of execution," is the AP report, via the Columbia Missourian.
Attorneys for condemned Missouri inmate John Winfield are asking a federal appeals court to halt his execution.
Winfield is scheduled to die June 18 for killing two women in St. Louis County in 1996. His attorneys on Monday asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to grant a stay, claiming that Missouri's lethal injection process violates his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.
It would be Missouri's first execution since another convicted killer, Russell Bucklew, was spared on May 21, when the U.S. Supreme Court sent his case back to the appeals court.
"John Winfield's planned June execution highlights one of the weirdest aspects of Missouri's death-penalty saga," is by Steve Vockrodt at the Pitch.
Missouri's capital-punishment machine has been one of the most closely scrutinized in the nation this year, not just for the Texas-sized frequency of its executions since November, but for a host of strange elements surrounding the state-sanctioned killings, most related to the secrecy enveloping the state's practices.
Winfield's case draws attention to a bizarre legal question surrounding his planned death: Should an inmate who is skeptical of Missouri's secretive lethal-injection protocol have to propose another method for his demise?
Winfield was among several Missouri death-row inmates who collectively sued the state to resolve a number of issues regarding the state's capital-punishment scheme. A federal judge in Kansas City last month struck a deadly blow to their appeals, dismissing many of their claims because the inmates should (and so far did not) suggest another way for the state to execute them if the current lethal-injection method was so objectionable.
The decision raised a troubling specter for death-row inmates' lawyers. Is it ethical for an attorney to suggest a punishment (in this case, their client's death) that their client is trying to avoid? A group of Yale University Law School professors and students didn't think so. In a February brief they submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, they argued that a lawyer should not be compelled to come up with another execution method unless the inmate tells them to. Doing so, they said, creates a conflict of interest for the inmate lawyers.
Here's more background on the case:
Monday morning, attorneys for John Winfield, a model prisoner on death row in Missouri, filed a Motion for Stay of Execution in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Mr. Winfield is scheduled for execution on June 18, 2014 at 12:01 a.m. CT. His Motion states that Missouri’s lethal injection protocol violates his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and that the law does not require Mr. Winfield to propose an “available” alternative way for the state to kill him, especially when Mr. Winfield lacks any information about the state’s methods, practices, and available pharmaceuticals from willing suppliers.
A copy of the Motion can be accessed here.
“The state’s rush to execute Mr. Winfield runs counter to a growing consensus that states and courts should proceed with caution and should not carry out executions without ensuring that the state’s method is known, ascertainable, and constitutional,” said Joseph Luby, attorney for John Winfield. “Moreover, Mr. Winfield is under no obligation to offer alternative means for his own execution.”
In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court filed on February 27, 2014 in the case Zink v. Lombardi¸ the Ethics Bureau at Yale Law School argued that requiring a lawyer propose an alternative means of his client’s own execution “is an impossible task for an ethical lawyer” (p 13) and that “[i]t would require the lawyer to make an argument that cuts against the very goals of the client’s representation, namely, preventing the client’s execution” (p 6).
The amicus brief is also available.
Like Oklahoma, where a botched execution took place on April 29, 2014, Missouri has cloaked its execution process in secrecy, including preventing access to complete information about the drugs planned for use in the execution, making it impossible to ensure that Mr. Winfield’s execution would be carried out in a humane manner, in compliance with state and federal law, and the U.S. Constitution.
Because Missouri plans to use pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy, Mr. Winfield is at additional risk for a prolonged, torturous death. Compounding pharmacies operate outside of FDA oversight, making it impossible to know if the drugs have been properly prepared and tested or where the active ingredients come from.
Executions in Oklahoma and South Dakota performed with compounded pentobarbital appeared to have had serious problems, including the January 9th execution of Oklahoman Michael Lee Wilson, whose last words, after being injected with compounded pentobarbital, were, “I feel my whole body burning.” In October 2012, in South Dakota, Eric Robert was executed using compounded pentobarbital. Mr. Robert opened his eyes and they remained open until his death, and his heart continued beating for 10 minutes after he ceased to breathe.
“In light of the horrific botched execution in Oklahoma, as well as the stay granted by the U.S. Supreme Court to Missouri prisoner Russell Bucklew, the State cannot move forward with the execution of Mr. Winfield until much more is known about the drugs the State plans to use and the effect the drugs will have on him,” said Mr. Luby.
In addition to the lethal injection claim, attorneys for Mr. Winfield say that racial discrimination improperly influenced Mr. Winfield’s jury’s decision making. The jury in Mr. Winfield’s case was all white except for one African American. One of the white jurors has signed a sworn declaration stating 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. The jury did not hear from Mr. Winfield’s trial attorneys that he was a family man who was working hard to support his children or that he was trusted and respected by the county corrections officers.
This juror 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, whose mother was a victim of the crime, does not want her father executed. She has forgiven him and does not want the State kill her father.
Mr. Winfield has rehabilitated himself after 18 years in prison and is a model prisoner. 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.
Earlier coverage from Missouri begins at the link.