St. Louis, MO, United States (4E) – A federal judge on Thursday stayed next week’s execution of a Missouri murder convict because prison officials interfered in the clemency process for the inmate.
Judge Catherine D. Perry of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri also ordered officials of the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDC) to not obstruct, pressure, discourage, or threaten any correctional employees from providing statements in support of John E. Winfield’s clemency efforts.
Attorney General Chris Koster filed a motion to dismiss the stay following Perry’s order, which came in response to Winfield’s lawyers’ suit against the director of the MDC and the wardens at the Potosi Correctional Center. The suit alleged that the officials and wardens were pressuring a prison employee not to support Winfield’s clemency petition.
The employee, Terry Cole, had agreed with Winfield’s lawyers he would write a letter declaring Winfield a rehabilitated and model prisoner who should no longer be executed. But Cole reneged on the agreement after prison officials allegedly harassed him by investigating his over-familiarity or closeness with Winfield.
“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,” Winfield’s lawyer, Joseph Luby, said in a statement, according to NBC News.
A St. Louis jury sentenced Winfield to death in 1998 for the killing of his ex-girlfriend’s two women friends in 1996.