Execution Reinstated for Innocent-Claiming Missouri Man after Court Vacates Stay

By Linh Nguyen

MISSOURI — Missouri is maintaining their scheduled execution of 64-year-old Walter Barton for today after his stay of execution petition, granted on May 5, 2020, was vacated two days ago.

Walter Barton was convicted of the first-degree murder of an 81-year-old woman, Gladys Kuehler, and sentenced to death. The murder occurred in 1991 at a trailer park. The victim, who was unable to move without a cane, was found beaten, sexually assaulted and stabbed over 50 times in Ozark, Missouri. Her body was found in the bedroom of her trailer home by the victim’s granddaughter, another resident in the trailer park and Barton. From 1993 to 2006, Barton went to trial five times in a series of appeals and mistrials.

In Feb. 2020, Barton petitioned for a habeas corpus relief to the Missouri Supreme Court on the grounds of innocence, based on blood spatter evidence and mental incompetence for execution.

On Apr. 27, 2020, they denied his request for a new hearing. The state Attorney General’s office said that the evidence was not new and did not suggest that no reasonable juror would vote to convict him. They also denied his motion to stay the execution.

The next week on May 4, 2020, Barton filed for habeas corpus relief to the District Court for the Western District of Missouri and filed a motion to suspend his execution.

The petition for habeas corpus relief was to determine whether Barton’s detention was lawful, requiring the court to “determine whether the rulings of the Missouri Supreme Court on these issues are contrary to or involve unreasonable application of United States Supreme court precedent or are the result of an unreasonable determination of facts.”

The District Court granted Barton’s motion to stay execution for timing reasons.

“[T]he Court requires more time to consider the merits of the claims beyond the 15 days available in this case between the filing of the habeas petition on May 4, 2020, and the scheduled execution on May 19, 2020,” their opinion wrote.

Two days after the District Court’s opinion was filed, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals filed their statement on vacating the stay of execution.

“After considerations, it is hereby ordered and adjudged that the stay of execution is hereby vacated and the case is remanded in accordance with the opinion of this Court,” the ruling stated.

Therefore, the scheduled execution is resumed for May 19, 2020.

Recently, new concerns have arisen regarding a key piece of evidence that led to his conviction. New revelations sparked this recent series of appeals as the nearing execution date loomed.

A new revelation in the blood splatter stain which was found on Barton’s clothing suggests that the blood was transferred onto his clothing after Barton and the other witnesses found the victim. A blood splatter expert also said that the assailant would have had far more blood on his clothing than Barton had.

In 2015, Barton’s lawyer, Fred Duchardt, asked a crime scene analyst to examine the evidence. The analyst, Lawrence Renner, believed that the stains on Barton’s clothing were not consistent with typical impact stains. Instead, they are believed to be transfer stains from when Barton’s shirt touched the existing bloodstains.

This was all contradictory to initial testimony in 1993.

In 2009, three years after Barton was sentenced to death, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that found conclusions made by bloodstain pattern analysts are generally “more subjective than scientific,” stating that there are “[enormous uncertainties].”

Upon hearing about these findings, three jurors from the original jury that convicted him said that the new revelations would have affected their deliberations. They signed affidavits confirming their statements, calling the new evidence “compelling.” The jury foreman also said that, based on the evidence, he would have been “uncomfortable” recommending the death penalty.

Barton told the police that the small stains of the victim’s blood must have come from when he slipped in pulling her granddaughter away from the victim’s body upon finding it. The granddaughter initially confirmed Barton’s actions, but later testified that Barton never entered the bedroom.

The next key piece of questionable evidence is statements from a jailhouse informant. The informant, Katherine Allen, testified that Barton told her he would kill her “like he killed that old lady.”

Allen had 29 convictions on her record. Her criminal charges in Cass County, Missouri, were dropped in exchange for her testimony against Barton. Allen was called a “life-long perpetrator of fraud and identity theft schemes” by federal prosecutors in Indiana, making her testimony potentially unreliable.

In 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed Barton’s conviction in a 4 to 3 decision.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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