Attorneys for convicted murderer John Winfield have asked U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito to issue a stay in Winfield’s execution, scheduled for early Wednesday morning at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center at Bonne Terre.
A stay issued last week by a federal judge in St. Louis is still in place.
His attorneys ask Justice Alito to halt the execution until his appeal filed in a case brought by several condemned Missouri inmates is resolved. That is pending in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has declined to stay the execution in light of it.
Justice Alito has issued stays in other recent executions scheduled in Missouri, including that of inmate Russell Bucklew, which last month was halted by the full Court after Alito’s action.
See Winfield’s attorneys’ filing with the US Supreme Court (pdf)
See the Missouri Attorney General’s Office’s response (pdf)
Winfield’s attorneys say a lower court agreed with their arguments that Winfield faces a risk of being harmed by Missouri’s use of pentobarbital that is unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, provided by an unknown maker, of unknown composition, and made through an unknown process, but the court dismissed his claim because Winfield and the other prisoners did not point to a comparatively safer method of execution.
They also argue that the state’s method of execution could cause Winfield “serious illness and needless suffering.” They point to the halting of the Bucklew execution as an acknowledgement by the Supreme Court of hazards posed by Missouri’s execution method.
The Attorney General’s Office responds to the request for a stay by saying Winfield’s pending appeal does not entitle him to a stay of execution, based on prior rulings.
It responds to the argument that Winfield might suffer by noting Missouri has carried out six executions using pentobarbital and more than 120 witnesses have reported nothing to suggest that those were not quick and painless. It says nothing has changed since the Supreme Court denied stays in those six cases regarding the existence of a more humane form of execution.
Of the Bucklew reference, the Attorney General’s Office says the halting of his execution was based on his health problems, which Winfield does not suffer from.
U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry last week issued a stay of Winfields’s execution based on concerns that Department of Corrections officials interfered with the clemency process. The Attorney General’s Office has asked for that order to be changed.
Winfield was sentenced to death for the 1996 murders of Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy, friends of his then-girlfriend, Carmelita Donald, whom he also shot, rendering her blind.