[UPDATE: Aug. 22, 4:45 p.m.]: Just four hours before Marcellus Williams’ scheduled lethal injection, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed an executive order to stay the execution. According to the Washington Post, after much public pressure about potentially executing the wrong person, Greitens said he has appointed a board of inquiry to take a deeper look at the new DNA evidence and other factors. The board will also further consider Williams’ clemency request, as well as issue a report determining whether or not he should still be executed or have his sentence commuted.
“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Greitens said in a statement. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case.”
Lawyers for a Missouri death row inmate claim the state will willingly execute an innocent man despite new evidence proving their initial findings wrong.
Marcellus Williams, 48, is scheduled to be executed Tuesday (Aug. 22) at the state prison Bonne Terre for stabbing to death former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle on Aug. 11, 1998. Gayle walked in on her home being burglarized and according to the Associated Press was stabbed multiple times.
However, attorney Kent Gipson claims DNA evidence that wasn’t available during the time of the killing now concludes that Williams isn’t the killer. Gipson reportedly appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a new hearing or asking that Williams’ sentence be commuted to life in prison. Gipson also asked Gov. Eric Greitens for clemency.
Gipson says according to DNA testing conducted in December, the results show that evidence found on the knife used to kill Gayle doesn’t match Williams. Previous testing of hairs found on Gayle’s shirt and under her fingernails also exclude Williams, and a shoe print at the scene isn’t Williams’ either.
The new evidence “means in our mind the actual killer is not him,” Gipson said to the Associated Press. Yet, despite the new findings Loree Anne Paradise a spokeswoman for Attorney General said the office remains steadfast in their decision to execute.
Williams’ conviction was based on the testimony of two convicted felons who were motivated to testify due to a $10,000 reward. One of those felons was Williams’ ex-girlfriend and the other was Williams’ cell mate. While new evidence shows Williams may be innocent of this crime he’s serving consecutive life terms for robbery and a 30 years each for a burglary and weapons crimes.