Stay of execution ordered for rights violation

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – A Missouri death row inmate has received a stay of execution for a violation of due process rights, according to court documents.

John Winfield was scheduled to be executed June 18, but the U.S. District Court of Eastern Missouri found that state officials had interfered in the clemency process.

According to court documents, a staff member of Potosi Correctional Center who worked with Winfield wanted to write a letter to support his clemency request, but the corrections department launched an investigation regarding over-familiarity with a prisoner.

DOCUMENTS: View the full court order

During the course of that investigation, the staff member decided not to write the letter in fear of losing his job, according to court documents.

According to a Missouri Department of Corrections policy, employees can write letters in support of clemency as long as they are not speaking on behalf of the department.

Winfield's counsel presented evidence that the investigation of the employee was launched based on another inmate's report, which was later dropped.

Information is now being provided to Gov. Jay Nixon and the Missouri Board of Probation to seek clemency for Winfield.

Joseph Luby, who is an attorney for Winfield, released the following statement:

"We are very pleased that the court has granted a stay of execution for John Winfield who was scheduled for execution on June 18, 2014. The court was right to follow controlling precedent from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals which says that if a state creates a clemency process, 'the state's own officials [must] refrain from frustrating it by threatening the job of a witness.' (Young v. Hayes). Here, the court correctly found that the state actors intimidated a prison staff member and made him fear for his job, and that such obstruction of the clemency process violated Mr. Winfield's due process rights. The staff member who supervised Mr. Winfield's work at the prison and spent eight hours a day with him wanted to submit a declaration describing Mr. Winfield as among the 'elite one percent of all inmates,' including those incarcerated for non-capital crimes, and detailing Mr. Winfield's superlative work habits, his kindness to other prisoners, the respect with which he is regarded by staff members and prisoners alike, and his important work in mentoring and turning the lives around of younger prisoners. This 20-year corrections staff member was made to fear for his job when he wanted to tell the truth about Mr. Winfield's remarkable rehabilitation and the positive good he will continue to do if his life is spared. We urge Governor Nixon to commute Mr. Winfield's death sentence to a sentence of life without parole."

Previously, a Cole County judge rejected his preliminary injunction request regarding the state's refusal to identify of its drug supplier for lethal injections.


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