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US judge grants Missouri inmate delay of execution

June 12, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A U.S. judge on Thursday granted a delay of execution for Missouri death row inmate John Winfield, less than a week before his scheduled execution, citing concerns that a prison worker was intimidated into deciding against writing a clemency letter on his behalf.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the state planned to appeal. Messages seeking comment from the Missouri Attorney General’s office and the Missouri Department of Corrections were not immediately returned.

Winfield was scheduled to die just after midnight Wednesday for killing two women in 1996.

His execution would be among the first since late April, when the botched execution of an Oklahoma inmate raised new concerns about lethal injection drugs and the secretive process many U.S. states use to obtain them. President Barack Obama called the botched execution “deeply disturbing” and called for a review of how the death penalty is applied in the United States.

No one has been executed since. Marcus Wellons is scheduled to be put to death June 17 in Georgia, and two executions are scheduled for June 18: Winfield and John Henry in Florida.

Missouri is among several states that obtain execution drugs from unnamed pharmacies. Other appeals by Winfield cited concerns that the unproven quality of the drug could cause pain and suffering for the inmate.

But it was a different appeal that earned the stay from Perry.

Court documents show that Terry Cole, the laundry director at the Potosi Correctional Center, which houses death row inmates in Missouri, told Winfield’s attorneys he supported Winfield’s clemency request and was willing to write a letter on Winfield’s behalf.

The judge wrote in her ruling that Cole was told by a prison administrator that there was no policy prohibiting such a letter, but on May 20, a corrections department investigator told Cole he was under investigation for alleged “over-familiarity” with Winfield. Cole eventually decided against writing the letter.

Cole denied being threatened, but the judge said evidence indicated he feared for his job.

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