Federal judge grants new stay to death row prisoner

 ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday granted a stay of execution for Missouri death row inmate John Winfield, less than a week before the convicted killer is scheduled to face execution, citing concerns that a prison worker was intimidated into deciding against writing a clemency letter on Winfield’s behalf.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the state planned to appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry in St. Louis. Messages seeking comment from the Missouri Attorney General’s office and the Missouri Department of Corrections were not immediately returned.

Winfield, 43, was scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing two St. Louis County women in 1996.

Court documents show that Terry Cole, the laundry director at the Potosi Correctional Center, which houses death row inmates in Missouri, told Winfield’s attorneys he supported Winfield’s clemency request and was willing to write a letter on Winfield’s behalf.

The judge said that on May 20, a corrections department investigator told Cole he was under investigation for alleged “over-familiarity” with Winfield. Cole eventually decided against writing the letter.

Cole denied being threatened, but the judge said evidence indicated he feared for his job.