An attorney who represented football great O.J. Simpson has visited Missouri today to give a presentation on behalf of convicted murderer Marcellus Williams. Barry Scheck provided materials to a board reviewing whether it thinks Williams should live or die. Scheck, one of the defense attorneys in what has been dubbed as the “Dream Team” helped to win an acquittal in the highly publicized 1990s-era case against Simpson. The Buffalo Bills star was accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend at her Los Angeles home.
Scheck, the director of the Innocence Project, told reporters today in Jefferson City that he is legally unable to speak about Williams’ case. Williams was convicted in the 1998 brutal killing of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle.
She was found stabbed to death more than 40 times in her University City apartment. The prosecution said Williams broke into Gayle’s home while she was taking a shower and surprised him – prompting him to stab Gayle repeatedly.
A cellmate at a local jail, Henry Cole, told other prisoners that Williams confessed to the murder. Laura Asaro, Williams’ girlfriend at the time, also testified on the state’s behalf.
Other evidence included a laptop belonging to Gayle’s husband. Williams allegedly sold and police recovered the computer. Police also found some of the victim’s personal items in the trunk of the car Williams drove.
Williams has maintained throughout the years that he has been wrongfully convicted. An unknown man’s fingerprints were found on the murder weapon. Williams’ DNA was not found on the knife. Williams’ DNA was not found on the knife.
Last August, former Gov. Eric Greitens blocked Williams’ execution hours before the procedure could have been carried out. He instead ordered the creation of a Board of Inquiry to consider whether Williams should be put to death. Greitens cited inconclusive DNA evidence prompting him to stop the execution.
During a press conference today in Jefferson City, Cassandra Gould, a Jefferson City pastor and executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, tells reporters she is crying out for justice.
“There are countless pools of blood that have been crying out from the ground all over America and especially in Missouri, from particularly innocent black men who are so easily convicted and so easily sentenced to death,” Gould says.
Staci Pratt with Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty says those prosecuted in St. Louis County have historically been three times more likely to receive a death sentence.
“We also know that a person of color who is facing a capital sentence is fourteen times more likely to receive one if the victim is a white female,” Pratt says.
Nimrod Chapel, president of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP, says a man’s life hangs in the balance and the latest process is Williams’ last hope. The state has previously argued that new DNA evidence does not mean Williams is innocent.
“Maybe if you don’t hide evidence along the way, you’ll allow people to have a fair trial and everybody will trust the process. Here, we clearly have a botched process,” Chapel says. “We had the prosecutor in the form of Bob McCulloch who came out unequivocally saying that there’s zero chance of him (Williams) being innocent. We also know that two people were paid a lot of money, we’re talking five figures each people and one of them got to go home from jail just for offering testimony in regards to this case.”
Chapel says the other person is an admitted drug abuser who offered out evidence that contradicted the police report.
“I think this is really an opportunity that we’ve got to let truth come into the room,” he says. “If you’re a prosecutor, your job is ensure that justice is done – not to get a conviction. Folks that get it twisted need to get out of office.”
Chapel says he plans to talk to Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office to question it about Williams’ case.
The panel of five former Missouri judges will present a report and a recommendation later to Gov. Mike Parson.
Gayle was a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter from 1981-1992. She left the newspaper to do volunteer social work with children and the poor.
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