The Missouri Supreme Court on Friday set an execution date for a man convicted of conspiring with his friend's married girlfriend to kill her husband in 1994. Richard Clay was originally found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to a punishment of death on Sept. 12, 1995, by the Circuit Court for Callaway County.
Clay is scheduled to die on Jan. 12 at the maximum security prison in Bonne Terre. He would be the first Missouri inmate executed since May 2009 and the second since October 2005.
Missouri has executed 67 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1989, but only one since October 2005. The lone exception was Dennis Skillicorn, who was put to death on May 20, 2009, for killing a man who stopped to help when a car Skillicorn and two others were in broke down on Interstate 70 near Kingdom City.
Clay was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Randy Martindale, of New Madrid. Martindale's wife, Stacy Martindale, was convicted of second-degree murder in her husband's death and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Clay's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said Friday that she will try to stop the execution.
"I do not say this lightly, but he is a person who is innocent," Herndon said. "I don't agree with any execution, but it's a double or triple tragedy when the guy's innocent. Compounding it worse than that is, he didn't get a fair trial.
"I feel devastated," Herndon said. "If we can't stop the execution I'll feel like the system has failed greatly."
According to prosecutors, Stacy Martindale was having an affair with a friend of Clay's and offered her lover $100,000 to help her kill her husband to get out of the marriage and collect on his $100,000 life insurance policy. They say the lover turned her down, but Clay took the job and shot Randy Martindale four times in his home on May 19, 1994. His two sons found the body.
Moments after the killing, police saw a red Camaro with a child's toy stuck to the bottom of it. Believing the driver might be drunk, police pursued it. By the time they got to the car, the driver was gone, but police later learned it was Clay. The car was Stacy Martindale's. Police found Clay the next day hiding in a swamp.
Herndon said Clay fled because he had drugs with him, not because he was involved in the killing. A murder weapon was never found.
"There's absolutely no physical evidence against him, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing," Herndon said.
Clay appealed his conviction claiming prosecutors withheld evidence that could have helped clear him. A judge ordered a new trial. But the state appealed and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.