May 19, 2020, 5:55 PM ET: Today the U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt the execution of Walter “Arkie” Barton, after the court of appeals for the 8th Circuit lifted the stay on his execution, discounting evidence of his innocence because it was previously available to his defence counsel. Barton was executed later that evening.
The Innocence Project reports how Barton was convicted of a 1991 murder based on unreliable evidence; he has always maintained his innocence. On Monday May 19, 2020 afternoon, Missouri Governor Parson denied Barton clemency and Barton’s legal team filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Midwest Innocence Project, the Innocence Project, and the MacArthur Justice Center had asked Missouri Gov. Michael Parson to stop Barton’s execution and appoint a Board of Inquiry into his innocence. Unfortunately, he didn’t step in.
- Barton was convicted based on the testimony of an unreliable jailhouse informant and the use of bloodstain pattern analysis — a forensic method whose validity scientists have questioned. Nearly half of all DNA exonerations in the United States involved the use of misleading or misapplied forensic science, like blood spatter evidence. New forensic evidence points to his innocence.
- The only piece of physical evidence used to connect Barton to the murder was a spot of blood found on his shirt, which Barton has always said got on his shirt while he was pulling the victim’s granddaughter off her body — a fact the victim’s granddaughter confirmed to investigators. New expert analysis has revealed that the spot is consistent with Barton’s account of events, and that the blood was not a result of spatter from the crime. Significantly, the victim was stabbed 50 times, and the real perpetrator of the crime would have been covered with blood, which Barton was not.
- The only other physical evidence in the case — hair found on the victim’s torso and biological material underneath her fingernails — does not match Barton.
- The unit that convicted Barton is also responsible for the wrongful conviction of at least four other innocent men.
- Barton has been tried five times and had two convictions overturned.
- At his fourth trial, Barton was convicted but, again, his conviction was overturned after the prosecution was found to have engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, including the use of perjured testimony from a jailhouse informant. This same informant testified at Barton’s fifth trial — his latest to date — at which he was convicted and sentenced to death.
- Barton has had woefully inadequate counsel, including one attorney who has since been suspended from the practice of law.