A Missouri death row convict literally got to see the sun rising at least one more time, after receiving a last minute stay of execution from a federal court judge. John Middleton had been convicted to death for the murder of three people, in a rural area of Missouri, in 1995. His execution was scheduled for one minute after midnight on Wednesday, but with under two hours left until his death, he was granted a stay. The man, currently imprisoned in Bonne Terre, Missouri received the decision from U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry. The judge ruled that enough evidence had accumulated indicating a potential mental illness and she decided that a court hearing was in order. According to several court rulings, it is against the U.S. Constitution to execute the mentally ill.
As of the time this article was written, Middleton’s fate had not been decided yet. After the stay was issued, early on Wednesday, the appeals court overturned it. The appeal had been filed by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court was adjourned for the evening, before it could issue a decision. Then, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the decision of the appeals court and also did not want to stop the execution from taking place. Several reasons to halt it had been cited by Middleton’s legal team, including the fact that he had not committed the crimes he was sentenced for. As such, as of this writing, if the stay is lifted, Middleton could be executed at any time on Wednesday.
Then, the attorneys of the Missouri death row convict returned to Judge Perry’s court, to see her grant a second stay. It is likely that this second stay will also be appealed by the District Attorney, yet, no matter how the appeals court rules, the decision will most likely be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court once more.
The death warrant issued for Middleton is only valid until midnight Thursday. If the convict is not executed by that time, the Missouri Supreme Court will be mandated to schedule a new execution date. The authorities have instructed the execution witnesses and members of the press covering this case to return to the jail where Middleton is being detained by 10:30 a.m.. If he is executed, Middleton will be the sixth man to be executed in Missouri in 2014. Only two other states have a higher death toll by execution – Florida and Texas executed seven people in 2014 each.