An Ozark, Missouri death row inmate, originally scheduled to be executed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, has been granted a stay of execution by a Missouri judge.
Walter Barton, 64, was scheduled to be executed on May 19 for the 1991 murder of an elderly woman when a federal judge stepped in and granted a 30-day stay of execution to consider issues raised by Barton’s attorneys.
Barton was convicted of killing 81-year-old Gladys Kuehler, a trailer park operator, who was beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed more than 50 times.
Fred Duchardt, Barton’s current defense attorney, filed a motion on May 4, raising concerns about the blood spatter evidence used to convict Barton also argue that Barton cannot be executed because he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a teenager and is therefore incompetent.
Lawrence Renner, a blood spatter expert hired by the defense, finds that the person who committed the murder would have had far more blood on his clothing than what was found on Barton’s clothing and disagrees with the original finding that the blood spatter came from impact. Blood spatter evidence was the strongest evidence the prosecution had during Barton’s trial, which his defense team did little to counteract. Since Barton’s original conviction, the validity of using blood spatter analysis has been called into question.
According to the Kansas City Star, three of the jurors that were involved in convicting Barton during his 2006 trial have expressed doubt about the blood spatter evidence used to convict and that given the new evidence, it would have affected their deliberations. All have signed affidavits attesting to their doubt.
One of the jurors, the foreman who handed down the verdict, says that if the newly uncovered evidence had been present during the trial, he would’ve felt “uncomfortable” handing down the guilty verdict.
The Western District Court of Missouri said in its order that the 15 days between the May 4 filing and Barton’s execution were not sufficient enough to review the issues raised by the petition or to assess whether Barton is likely to succeed in his petition, and if it can’t dismiss the petition on its merits before the execution, “must issue a stay to prevent the case from becoming moot.”
Barton has gone on trial for the murder five times between 1993 and 2006, maintaining his innocence throughout.