A panel of the Eight Circuit Appeals Court has lifted a lower court’s stay of execution for John Middleton. But the order will not go into effect until 6 p.m. Middleton’s attorneys have asked for the full appeals court to review the findings.
The three-judge panel has put the stay in effect until 6 p.m. so Middleton’s legal team can take the case to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Middleton’s lawyers say he should not be executed because he is insane. Although a district judge ruled that the execution should be delayed until a hearing clears up that issue, the appeals court says the real test should be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court first.
The appeals court judges say District Judge Catherine Perry abused her position by granting an indefinite stay “because Middleton has not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits” of his federal claims. And it says federal courts cannot grant stays until Middleton has exhausted all of his claims in the state court system. The appeals judges say the way the federal court rules on a stay can be influenced by the findings of the state court.
Middleton remains in his small cell about fifty feet from the execution chamber at the Bonne Terre prison. The warrant for his execution is good until 11:59 tonight.