• Press Release

Missouri plans to execute Walter Barton, as he maintains his innocence

May 18, 2020

Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu (L) and Brian Yap, representatives from Amnesty International Malaysia, attend the launch of a report on the death penalty in Malaysia, in Petaling Jaya on October 10, 2019. - Malaysian police sometimes use torture to extract confessions from suspects in death penalty cases, who often face unfair trials, Amnesty International said on October 10, piling pressure on the government to abolish capital punishment. (Photo by SADIQ ASYRAF / AFP) (Photo by SADIQ ASYRAF/AFP via Getty Images)
In advance of the planned execution of Walter Barton on May 19, Kristina Roth, the senior program officer of Criminal Justice Programs at Amnesty International USA said:

“The planned execution of Walter Barton demonstrates why the death penalty is far too flawed to ever fix. Barton maintains his innocence after it took five trials which lasted over a decade to convict and sentence him. He faces execution despite the existence of expert opinion and evidence, never heard by a trial jury, which counters key elements that led to his conviction. This is not justice, it is cruelty.

“Missouri seems to willingly accept the grave risk of executing a person that could be innocent. We don’t. Walter Barton deserves better.”

“Walter Barton’s execution would be the first in this country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than focusing all the state’s efforts, energies, and resources on keeping everyone healthy and slowing the spread of the virus, authorities in Missouri are engaging in actions that serve only to turn back progress on death penalty abolition.”

Amnesty International USA is calling on Missouri State Governor Michael L. Parson to grant Walter Barton clemency. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception – regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution. Amnesty International believes that the death penalty should be abolished, once and for all.

Background and context

Walter Barton was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 for the murder of a woman in Ozark, Missouri on October 9, 1991. This was the fifth trial in this case. Walter Barton maintains his innocence. Since 1973, 167 people have been exonerated from U.S. death rows on innocence grounds.

Walter Barton was tried five separate times – the first two trials were declared mistrial – the first before the trial started and the second after a jury could not reach a verdict, the next two trials resulted in convictions and death sentences which were overturned on appeal due to prosecutorial misconduct – the fifth and final trial resulted in a conviction and death sentence in 2006. That last conviction was upheld by a 4-3 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2007. Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff, in his dissenting opinion, wrote: “From the first mistrial in 1993 through three completed trials, post-conviction proceedings, multiple appeals, there is a trail of mishaps and misdeeds that, taken together, reflect poorly on the criminal justice system.” Walter Barton faces execution despite expert testimony never heard by a trial jury refuting the prosecution’s expert witness’ analysis of the blood on Barton’s clothes, confirming Barton’s explanation – evidence that would have been “compelling” to three trial jurors’ recent affidavits. Other evidence, undermining the credibility of a key witness, a jailhouse informant, was never presented at trial.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Mariya Parodi at [email protected] 

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