Governor Eric Greitens (R) has blocked the execution of convicted killer Marcellus Williams. The death row inmate was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday evening in Bonne Terre.
Greitens cites inconclusive DNA testing from 2016 as his reason for halting Williams’ execution. Williams’ lawyer claims new DNA evidence found on the knife used to stab the victim was not his client’s DNA.
Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court denied Williams’ request to consider the new evidence. His lawyer took the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by asking that court to consider stopping Williams’ execution because of the new DNA testing.
Greitens has appointed a Gubernatorial Board of Inquiry to consider whether Williams should be executed.
“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. 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,” says Greitens.
Missouri NAACP Executive Director Rod Chapel says Williams could be innocent.
“What separates Mr. Williams from many others is that he may be a case of actual innocence,” says Chapel. “There is evidence that has not been considered by a court. Evidence that could prove that he had nothing to do with the murder itself.”
St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch says Williams’ conviction and sentence have been reviewed and affirmed repeatedly during the past twenty years by the Missouri Supreme Court and others.
“The Governor also ordered the formation of a Board of Inquiry pursuant to Section 552.070 RSMo. Although Chapter 552.070 pertains only to “Criminal Proceedings Involving Mental Illness” (which is not an allegation made by Williams now or at any time during the past twenty years), I am confident that any Board and the Governor, after a full review of all evidence and information, will reach the same conclusion reached by the Jury and the various Courts,” says McCulloch.
Williams has been convicted of the 1998 killing of former “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” reporter Felicia “Lisha” Gayle Prosecutors have said Williams was looking for a house to break into, when he burglarized Gayle’s home in a gated community in St. Louis County’s University City. The victim was stabbed 43 times.
Gayle was a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1981-1992. She left the newspaper to do volunteer social work with children and the poor.
Missouri’s last execution took place on January 31 in Bonne Terre, when convicted triple killer Mark Christeson was put to death by lethal injection.
Story by Brian Hauswirth and Alisa Nelson