May 21, 2020
On Tuesday, Walter Barton was executed in Missouri in connection with a 1991 murder. According to the Innocence Project, Barton may well have been innocent.
– The evidence used to convict him was primarily the testimony of a jailhouse informant and “blood spatter” evidence that has since been thoroughly repudiated.
– 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.
– The victim was stabbed 50 times, and the real perpetrator of the crime would have been covered with blood, which Barton was not.
– Hair found on the victim’s torso and biological material underneath her fingernails did not match Barton.
– Barton’s first trial ended in a mistrial. The second ended in a hung jury. He was convicted at the third trial, but the conviction was overturned because the defense counsel’s closing argument, which pointed out discrepancies in the timeline of the case, had been restricted during the trial. His fourth trial also resulted in a conviction, but that conviction, too, was overturned for prosecutorial misconduct, including the use of perjured testimony from a jailhouse informant.
– That same informant testified at Barton’s fifth, and final, trial.
– The unit of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office that prosecuted Barton was responsible for prosecuting — and convicting — four other men who were sentences to death, all four of whom were ultimately exonerated.
– Three of the jurors at his fifth trial have signed affidavits indicating that they would not have voted to convict him if they had seen the new expert testimony about the origin of the blood stain.
There are a lot of reasons to oppose the death penalty, but its irreversibility is high on my list.