The Missouri Supreme Court has vacated its execution warrant for a man less than a week before he was scheduled to die.
46-year-old Marcellus Williams had been scheduled to died Wednesday morning by lethal injection for the 1998 murder of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle at her home in University City. The Court is not saying why it has taken the action, nor has it acted on motions Williams’ attorneys have filed with it.
“His application for a writ of Habeas Corpus and his request for DNA testing is still pending,” Kent Gipson, Williams’ attorney, told Missourinet. “I think what’s going on now is the Missouri Supreme Court is trying to figure out how to handle that request.”
Williams is seeking DNA testing of hairs Gipson says were found at the crime scene that were never tested for DNA but under a microscope, did not match his client, the victim, or her husband.
Gipson says the Court, “could rule on it on their own or they could appoint a special master, which is usually a retired or current judge to resolve any disputes or any evidentiary issues, or they could just order more briefing and argument on the case before they ultimately decide that.”
Gipson wants to at least see Williams’ sentence for the murder commuted to life in prison without parole. Though Williams maintains he is innocent of Gayle’s murder, Gipson says Williams is already sentenced to life without parole for another crime.
It’s unclear when the Court might take further action on Williams’ case.
“I don’t anticipate anything will happen until probably the first week in February when we may hear something about how the case is going to proceed,” said Gipson.
Gipson was happy about the unusual move by the Court.
“I don’t know that I can think of any recent case where they have stayed one of their own execution warrants. The two men who got stays during the recent spate of executions in the last 12 to 14 months both got stays from the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Gipson.
Missouri’s next scheduled execution is that of Walter Storey, who was sentenced to death for the 1990 murder of his St. Charles County neighbor Jill Frey.