A federal judge in St. Louis ordered on Thursday a stay of execution for condemned murderer John E. Winfield over concerns that the Missouri Department of Corrections meddled with the clemency process.
Later in the day, Attorney General Chris Koster filed a motion to dismiss the stay.
Winfield’s lawyers had filed suit against the director of the Department of Corrections, and the wardens of prisons in Potosi and Bonne Terre, alleging that they were pressuring a prison employee not to support Winfield’s clemency petition.
The employee, identified in court records as Terry Cole, laundry director at Potosi Correctional Center, initially told Winfield’s lawyers that Winfield was a model prisoner and a changed man worthy of clemency. But Cole took back the statement after prison officials told him he was under investigation for being too close to Winfield.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, alleges the state had unfairly interfered with Winfield’s clemency petition.
However, the attorney general’s office argued that Cole’s support for clemency for Winfield has previously been introduced in court documents and has been cited in the media, so Winfield’s lawyers cannot argue that the governor is unaware of it.
The stay and preliminary injunction, written by U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry, prohibited corrections officials from “obstructing, pressuring, discouraging, or otherwise threatening any correctional employees from providing statements in support of John E. Winfield’s clemency efforts.”
Officials with Missouri Department of Corrections did not return a request for comment.
Also Thursday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Winfield’s request for a rehearing.
On Sept. 9, 1996, Winfield, of University City, went to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment in the 8100 block of Page Avenue in Vinita Park. The ex-girlfriend, Carmelita Donald, was on a date.
He confronted her when she got home. Donald’s roommates, Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy, called police and slashed Winfield’s tires so he couldn’t get away. He ran into an apartment, fatally shot Sanders, came outside to shoot Donald four times, then ran back inside to kill Murphy.
Donald survived but was blinded.
A St. Louis County jury convicted Winfield in 1998 and recommended two death sentences.