This week the state of Missouri executed John Winfield, the seventh person in the last eight months.
It is true that Mr. Winfield was responsible for the murders of Arthea Sanders, Shawnee Murphy, and the shooting of Carmelita Donald in a love-triangle dispute. But in the 18 years since the murders, Mr. Winfield was a model prisoner and dedicated his life to helping others. Mr. Winfield mentored youth, had worked through the NAACP chapter in prison to raise funds for shelters and charities in St. Louis. He had helped illiterate inmates write letters home, tutored men wishing to obtain their GED, and assisted inmates before their release. A prison guard, who supported Winfield’s clemency efforts, described him as being in the “elite, one percent of inmates.”
During this time his family stood by him and they needed the support and encouragement Winfield provided even from behind bars. His daughter, whose mother was a victim in the shooting, strongly supported clemency for her father.
In light of Mr. Winfield’s rehabilitation and model conduct, one can legitimately ask what purpose his execution served? Is the prison a better place without Winfield? As a society, are we safer because Mr. Winfield is dead? Would not society have gained more by allowing Mr. Winfield to spend the rest of his life in prison, doing the good work he was doing? These are hard questions that Missouri faces as the executions continue.
Posted: June 20, 2014