Missouri plans to move ahead with execution despite pandemic
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri is moving ahead with plans to execute a convicted killer on May 19, unlike other states that have postponed executions during the coronavirus pandemic.
“At this time, we fully anticipate carrying out the court order and discharging our duties as prescribed by law on May 19,” said Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for the Republican governor.
Other states have put executions on hold because of the risks of spreading the coronavirus and the social restrictions on gatherings. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine moved executions scheduled for July and August to 2022. The Tennessee Supreme Court delayed an execution scheduled in June until early 2021. Texas delayed five executions.
Barton’s attorneys have filed appeals in state and federal court seeking to halt the execution, which would be the first in Missouri since October.
One of Barton’s attorneys, Fred Duchardt Jr., said Parson may not have the time to consider clemency because of the attention he must pay to dealing with the coronavirus. He said the execution itself also could violate social distancing rules Parson has imposed on the state.
Barton, 64, was convicted of killing an 81-year-old mobile home park manager nearly three decades ago. Gladys Kuehler was beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed more than 50 times. DNA testing showed that a stain on her clothing was Kuehler’s blood.
Duchardt said Barton had blood on his shirt because he was among those who helped identify the victim. He said the conviction also was based on testimony from an unreliable witness.
Barton’s case has been tied up in court for years due to mistrials, appeals and two overturned convictions, and his attorney continues to maintain his innocence.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said the agency has “a robust viral containment plan and strict safety protocols in place at every facility, and everyone is screened, with a temperature check, before entering a prison.”
Gov. Mike Parson’s statewide stay-at-home order was lifted effective Monday, but social distancing requirements remain in place, including limits on the size of gatherings.
Missouri executions take place at the prison in Bonne Terre, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of St. Louis.
The prison includes three separate viewing areas for witnesses, one each for those who are there for the victim and the inmate and a third for journalists and people serving as state witnesses. Each witness room will be limited to 10 or fewer people, in accordance with the state’s social distancing guidelines, Pojmann said.
“We plan to limit the number of witnesses in each room and space them out within each room. We have ample access to hand sanitizer, fabric face masks and other supplies, as needed,” Pojmann said.