Federal Court Overturns Missouri Death Sentence Over Failures of Counsel
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber ordered Missouri to sentence 39-year-old David Barnett to life in prison without parole, unless prosecutors decide to pursue another death sentence within 180 days. The Judge ruled Barnett’s attorneys failed to adequately investigate and present evidence relating to mitigation issues, such as subjection to pervasive physical and sexual abuse, history of childhood suicide attempts, and mental health problems. According to press reports, mitigation work would have revealed that Barnett’s “real father” was “a violent alcoholic” and that “Barnett’s mother drank heavily and took diet pills after he was born. She abandoned him multiple times, once giving him to a suicidal prostitute.”
Judge Weber observed that “at least one juror would have determined the balance of aggravating and mitigating circumstances did not warrant death in Mr. Barnett’s case.” Attorneys indicate that Barnett suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. See St. Louis Today, August 18, 2015.