Missouri Shows Indifference to Human Life by Proceeding with Execution Amid Pandemic
The “Show Me” state showed indifference to human life by carrying out the death sentence of Walter Barton on May 19, 2020, at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Neither the courts nor the governor would intervene.
Executions require interactions among large numbers of people. Court personnel is involved with last-minute hearings. Attorneys must interview witnesses. There are witnesses to the execution itself. The press must be there. Members of the victim’s family are usually in attendance, as well as friends and family of the prisoner being killed. Clergy are involved. Prison staff participate in the execution. Because of coronavirus concerns, the prison required checking workers’ and visitors’ temperatures and the wearing of face masks.
Texas, the leader in U.S. executions, has rescheduled six executions so far during the coronavirus pandemic. But Missouri’s Republican Governor Mike Parson is in a hurry to get the state back to business-as-usual. In addition to executions, Parson has allowed sporting events, concerts, and church services to resume along with the re-opening of hair salons, restaurants, and gyms, at least through mid-June.
Barton, 64, was convicted of the 1991 slaying of Gladys Kuehler. There is considerable doubt as to Barton’s guilt since Missouri relied on a jailhouse informant and blood-spatter evidence to convict him. Both types of evidence are considered unreliable.
Barton has always maintained his innocence.
The State had to take him to trial five times before it could select him for execution. “Missouri is about ready to put to death an actually innocent man,” said Barton’s attorney, Frederick Duchardt Jr. in February.