May 15 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Missouri issued a stay of execution Friday for a man convicted of killing an 81-year-old woman in 1991.
District Judge Brian Wimes granted the stay for Walter Barton, 64, who was scheduled to be executed Tuesday. He was convicted in the death of trailer park operator Gladys Kuehler.
Barton sought the stay on the grounds that a blood spatter expert disagrees with the state's expert, who said during trial that blood pattern on the defendant's clothes showed he killed Kuehler. The new expert, though, said that had Barton killed her, he would have had more blood on him.
The petition also called into question the reliability of a jail informant, who testified at trial that Barton threatened to kill her "like he did that old lady."
Barton's lawyers also sought the stay based on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hindered defense attorneys across the country from conducting investigations needed in the final weeks before a scheduled execution.
Wimes said he needed more time to consider the merits of the case beyond the Tuesday date of execution.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt appealed the stay, sending the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
If Barton is executed Tuesday, his will be the first since March 5. Texas has delayed or rescheduled six executions, while Tennessee delayed one, all due to the coronavirus pandemic.