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Appeals court overturns Missouri stay of execution

July 15, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A three-judge U.S. appeals court panel has overturned a stay of execution for a condemned Missouri man, hours before he is scheduled to be put to death.

John Middleton is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing three people in out of fear that they would tell police about his drug dealing.

A U.S. District judge ruled early Tuesday that there was enough question about Middleton’s sanity that a hearing should determine if he is fit to be executed, writing in her ruling that he “has provided evidence that he has been diagnosed with a variety of mental health disorders, and has received a number of psychiatric medications over the years.”

Courts have established that executing someone who is mentally ill is unconstitutional.

Hours later, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the stay. Middleton’s lawyers appealed that ruling. They’ve also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying another man, not Middleton, was responsible for the 1995 crimes.

Middleton, 54, would be the sixth man put to death in Missouri this year. Only Florida and Texas have performed more executions in 2014, with seven each.

Middleton was convicted of killing Randy “Happy” Hamilton and Stacey Hodge in June 1995. He then killed Alfred Pinegar several days later, out of concern that they would tell police about Middleton’s methamphetamine dealing. Middleton’s girlfriend, Maggie Hodges, is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in all three cases.

Middleton’s attorneys contend that the wrong man was arrested, citing new evidence that included a witness who came forward in February.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster disagreed. “The time for enforcement of Missouri’s criminal judgment against John Middleton is long overdue,” Koster wrote in a court response on Tuesday.

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