Barton v. Stange, 051720 FED8, 20-1985

Docket Nº:20-1985
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:Walter Barton Petitioner - Appellee v. Warden William Stange Respondent - Appellant
Judge Panel:Before LOKEN, GRUENDER, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:May 17, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Walter Barton Petitioner - Appellee

v.

Warden William Stange Respondent - Appellant

No. 20-1985

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 17, 2020

Submitted: May 15, 2020

Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

Before LOKEN, GRUENDER, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM.

After two mistrials, a trial and conviction that was reversed and remanded by the Missouri Supreme Court, and a second trial and conviction that was later vacated, Walter Barton was convicted after his fifth trial for murder in the first degree. State v. Barton, 240 S.W.3d 693, 696 (Mo. 2007). His conviction was affirmed by the Missouri Supreme Court, id. at 711, and became final in 2008, see Barton v. Missouri, 555 U.S. 842 (2008) (mem.).

Barton subsequently filed a motion for state post-conviction relief, and the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the denial of his motion. Barton v. State, 432 S.W.3d 741, 764 (Mo. 2014). Barton filed another motion for relief based on the performance of his post-conviction counsel. Barton v. State, 486 S.W.3d 332, 335 (Mo. 2016). The Missouri Supreme Court again affirmed the denial of relief. Id. at 339. Barton then turned to federal court seeking habeas relief, the denial of which became final last year. See Barton v. Stange, 589 U.S. ---, 140 S.Ct. 525 (2019) (mem.).

In February 2020, Barton's execution was set for May 19, 2020. Barton again pursued state post-conviction relief, seeking a writ of habeas corpus from the Missouri Supreme Court based on a claim that he is not competent for execution and an actual innocence claim. State ex rel. Barton v. Stange, No. SC98343, slip op. at 1-2 (Mo. Apr. 27, 2020). The Missouri Supreme Court determined that Barton was competent based on the standards outlined by the United States Supreme Court. See Madison v. Alabama, 586 U.S. ---, 139 S.Ct. 718, 722 (2019). It also determined that Barton's evidence of his innocence did "not show actual innocence by a preponderance of the evidence as required for a gateway claim of actual innocence, nor [did] it rise to the level of clear and convincing evidence required for a freestanding claim of actual innocence." Barton, slip op. at 1-2.

Following the Missouri Supreme Court's decision, Barton filed another petition for habeas relief in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on May 4, 2020. He concurrently filed a motion for stay of execution. The district court received all of the relevant briefing for the habeas petition and the motion for stay of execution on May 11, 2020. On May 15, the district court entered an order granting the motion for stay of execution.

The State appeals, urging us to vacate the district court's stay of execution. "We generally review a district court's decision to stay execution for an abuse of discretion." Nooner v. Norris, 491 F.3d 804, 807 (8th Cir. 2007).

"[A] stay of execution is an equitable remedy. It is not available as a matter of right, and equity must be sensitive to the State's strong interest in enforcing its criminal judgments without undue interference from the federal courts." Lee v. Hutchinson, 854 F.3d 978, 980-81 (8th Cir. 2017) (per curiam). "To prevail, inmates must satisfy all of the requirements for a stay, including a showing of a significant...

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