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A group of unlikely allies is urging Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to grant clemency to John Winfield, a man scheduled to be executed on June 18th a little after midnight. The group, whose declarations and letters in support of clemency were filed along with Mr. Winfield's clemency petition today, includes a former juror in his case, the victim'™s daughter, and the Missouri NAACP.

Governor Nixon has more than one good reason to commute Mr. Winfield's sentence to life without parole. Taken together, the numerous issues surrounding Mr. Winfield's case make a compelling argument to spare his life:

One former juror says she would have voted for life. Ms. Kimberly Turner, who served on Mr. Winfield's jury, voted for life without parole but changed her vote after the court's bailiff instructed the jurors to keep deliberating. That one vote for life without parole would have saved Mr. Winfield's life.

Mr. Winfield's jury was infected by racial bias. Ms. Turner, who is white, also attests that the prosecutor played upon the jury's racial biases (the jury in Mr. Winfield's case was all white except for one African-American). She states that the prosecutor painted Mr. Winfield as a "thug" who drove around St. Louis in a Cadillac with tinted windows, yet the jury did not get to hear testimony about how hard Mr. Winfield was working to support his children at the time.

In their letter in support of clemency sent to Governor Nixon, the Missouri NAACP wrote, "As individuals committed to equality of rights and the elimination of racial discrimination, we are deeply concerned about the role that racial bias played in determining whether Mr. Winfield shall live or die, and we ask that clemency be granted to correct this injustice."

Missouri shrouds its execution process in secrecy. Since the state intends to execute Mr. Winfield with compounded drugs--”whose quality can vary between batches--it is essential to know the supplier in order to discern the quality of the drug. However, Missouri has kept "virtually all information about [the supplier] secret. Because of this, it's impossible to know whether Mr. Winfield can be executed without violating the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. Mr. Winfield's lawyers have also challenged whether they actually need to propose an alternate means of their own client's execution, saying it violates their ethical responsibilities.

Mr. Winfield is a model prisoner who dedicates his time in prison to helping others. A staff member at the Department of Corrections has called him a "œchanged man," citing how Mr. Winfield looks after inmates in the special needs unit and cares for younger or weaker inmates at the prison as examples of Mr. Winfield's exceptional work ethic and "dedication to helping those who are in pain."

The victim's daughter does not want Mr. Winfield, her father, to be executed. She has forgiven him and does not want to see him executed.

The risks and uncertainties surrounding this execution are too great to ignore. The Missouri Supreme Court and Governor Nixon should exercise their powers to stay the execution and commute his death sentence to life without parole.

Originally posted to jscornejo on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 01:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kansas & Missouri Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I used to be in favor of the death penalty until.. (18+ / 0-)

    I realized, It's not about who they are but rather it is about who we are.  We have already determined "they" are murderers but that does not mean that we have to become like them to to punish them.  

    If our government can decide who lives and dies based on a criminal conviction, why wouldn't everyone else feel that can have that power to decide based on their values as well?  Many feel that a cheating spouse deserves to die... A child molester (I admit to being one of those believers), traitors who dessert during war time, someone who burns the flag, someone who tresspasses in your yard...  If the government can decide that it is okay to take someone's life if the crime warrants it, why wouldn't individuals feel they have the same right?

    Of course, the accuracy of jury convictions and the history of courtroom misconduct aside, the real question is whether we should strive to be a country that says "Life is sacred and we will never sanction the killing of a human being regardless of their crime... It is not who they are but rather who we are".

    "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

    by Buckeye Nut Schell on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 01:29:35 PM PDT

  •  A description of Winfield's murders can be seen at (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SixSixSix, tmservo433

    I don't see any factors that show he will be a threat to others in prison, guards and other inmates included. I believe his sentence should be life without possibility of parole or early release.

     I generally oppose the death penalty, except when the person is a continued threat to others in or out of prison, or has been extremely violent or committed murder while in prison while serving a very long sentence.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 04:19:36 PM PDT

  •  I don't think the family of victims... (0+ / 0-)

    Should factor in to sentencing or applications of clemency. You'll find far more family members wanting a stiffer penalty than vice versa. I mean, I am against the death penalty personally, but if somebody murdered my mother, I'd want whoever did it deader than dead.

    That said, I do hope he receives clemency because Life W/O Parole is in itself a life-ending and ultra-stiff sentence, but allows for remedy in cases where it's needed. Knowing what we know about the racial and class biases in sentencing, it just seems like the right thing to do.

    The victim's daughter in this case is a better person than I think I'd be, and I admire her efforts to secure clemency. I hope she's successful, but I ultimately think it should be based on other factors.

    •  Factoring family wishes into clemency is fine. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Factoring it into stiffer sentences is not.

      There's a very good reason for this. When the family is involved in gaining clemency, it helps them achieve closure.

      The same is not true when they're pursuing vengeance.

      Further, the family that wants further punishment already has another method available to them: civil suits for wrongful death, etc. The family that wants clemency has no such alternatives.

      "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

      by nosleep4u on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:19:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's have some humanity and kindness for a change (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bewild, jgilhousen

    -it can't harm our judicial system and would be beneficial to our society.

    In Georgia, acting the fool with a gun is not only legal, it is encouraged by the governor and the state legislature.

    by Mayfly on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 05:07:50 PM PDT

  •  The racial bias argument in this case is spurious (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He killed two African-Americans.  I'd say the state is valuing African-American lives pretty significantly here.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 04:14:09 AM PDT

  •  Even the condemnded... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA

    ... does not dispute that he is guilty of the crimes in question, so the alleged taint of the jury is irrelevant.  No jury would have found him not guilty, because there is zero doubt about his guilty.

    How about we ask the victim what she thinks, instead of "the victim's daughter?"

    Carmelita Donald, who was blinded in the 1996 jealousy-fueled shooting that left two of her friends dead, said she firmly believes her ex-boyfriend should die for the crime.

    "I want to be there," the 42-year-old Gary, Indiana, woman said of the June 18 execution.

    I am willing to offer a compromise: If he can bring back her two dead friends and unblind her, then he can get clemency.  Until then, this is an entirely appropriate use of the death penalty.  That there exist other cases where the death penalty is either too extreme for the crime or misapplied to an innocent person does not mean that's the case here; murdering two and blinding another over a petty jealousy squabble is exactly the sort of behavior which merits the ultimate penalty.  

    Read more about his crimes here:

    •  The death penalty costs society heavily (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Silencio, overlander

      when you factor in the expense of keeping somebody behind bars all those years and all the legal appeals submitted on the convict's behalf. Numerous studies attest that the death penalty has no--Zero--deterrent value; societies  with the death penalty are at least as plagued by violent crime as societies without it.

      I agree with you that this defendant's crimes have basically been beyond the pale. They've offended any human standard of decency. By all means, keep society safe from this person. Lock him up and throw away the key. But is blood-lust any reason to execute somebody?

      I have a partial answer to that. In our society, stoking popular blood-lust is a way demagogic politicians and officials focus attention away from the underlying problems in society that need addressing. Blood-lust is cheaper than addressing underlying systemic problems would threaten the status quo. "What can we do about that axe-murderer monster?" is a more expedient question to encourage in the dissatisfied masses than "What can we do about poverty and inequality?"

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:11:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually, jury taint is relevant... (4+ / 0-)

      ...because it impacted the sentencing phase. The result would be not a thrown out conviction but a new sentencing hearing, one at which the defendant would be allowed to present adequate mitigation.

      Do you argue, then, that the value of executing him outweighs any value he provides as a rehabilitated prisoner providing guidance and mentorship to fellow prisoners?

    •  A horrible crime... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and one of the objects of punishment, the protection of society, must be served. It can be served by the death penalty, or by life w/o parole. Either will do.

      But other objects of punishment would not be met by execution. Rehabilitation should be considered, and the facts here suggest that he has been rehabilitated, and is doing useful service in prison. He's no threat to the guards, and actually helps them.

      Given these facts, I can't support the death penalty. It coarsens our society and our justice system.

  •  Your final, bolded sentence, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    without any context whatever, is really confusing. Not all of us bothered to follow the link. You may want to provide the briefest summary of the circumstances.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 05:38:50 AM PDT

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