ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Missouri death row inmate, convicted following a local major case squad investigation in 1995, is asking the state Supreme Court for a new trial.
Lawyers for 54-year-old John Middleton have submitted court filings in which they introduce new evidence that they say warrants him getting a new trial for one of his three murder convictions. That conviction, for the 1995 fatal shooting of Alfred Pinegar was considered an aggravating factor that justified the death sentences he received for the two subsequent convictions.
Among other things, the lawyers for Middleton argue that some investigators, whose alleged questionable conduct led to the recent overturning of another capitol murder case, also mishandled Middleton's cases. They also submitted sworn testimony, claiming to be from a new witness, who says Middleton was beaten by two fellow drug dealers who suggested they kill Pinegar. The state, in its response, dismisses validity
of the claims.
John Middleton was a user and dealer of methamphetamine. On June 10, 1995, police arrested several people in Harrison County, Missouri, for possession and sale of the drug.
Middleton was not one of the people arrested.
About ten days after the Harrison County arrests, Middleton told a friend that â€śthe snitches around here are going to start going down.â€ť Middleton stated that he had a â€śhit listâ€ť and that Alfred Pinegar was on it. Two days after making these statements, Middleton told the same friend that he was â€śon his way to Ridgeway, Missouri, to take Alfred Pinegar fishing.â€ť
Alfred Pinegar was also a dealer of methamphetamine and was associated with Middleton as a fellow drug dealer. Pinegar lived with his fiancĂ© Priscilla Hobbs in Davis City, Iowa, just north of Harrison County, Missouri. On June 23, 1995, the day of Pinegarâ€™s murder, Hobbs was driving toward her home in Davis City when she saw Middleton and his girlfriend Maggie Hodges in a white Chevrolet 4Ă—4 pickup traveling in the opposite direction.
Hobbs noticed that Hodges was sitting in the middle of the truck seat instead of in the right passengerâ€™s seat. When Hobbs reached her home, Pinegar was not there and the yard had been partly mowed, as if Pinegar stopped in the middle of the job. Pinegar habitually carried a twelve-gauge shotgun, and that shotgun and about two hundred dollars were missing from the home.
Around noon that same day, Wesley Booth was working in the sporting goods department of a Wal-Mart store in Bethany, Missouri. He was approached by Hodges, Middleton, and another man, presumably Pinegar. Middleton asked Booth for six boxes of nine-millimeter shells and two boxes of twelve-gauge â€śdouble-oughtâ€ť buckshot. Middleton paid cash for the ammunition.
During the entire transaction Middleton was standing at the counter across from Booth.
Middleton, Hodges, and Pinegar left Wal-Mart and drove several miles northeast of Bethany near the town of Ridgeway where they parked in a field. Pinegar got out of the truck and began to run when he saw Middleton raise the twelve-gauge shotgun. Middleton shot Pinegar twice in the back.
Middleton then delivered the fatal wound to Pinegar, shooting him in the face. Middleton dumped Pinegarâ€™s body over a fence. After committing the murder, Middleton and Hodges went back to the Wal-Mart store in Bethany to return the nine-millimeter ammunition.