JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri- Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R) on Tuesday issued a stay in the scheduled execution of Marcellus Williams, who was convicted of brutally stabbing to death a former reporter.
“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,” said Governor Greitens.
Williams’ supporters say DNA evidence shows the state was on the verge of executing the wrong man.
Felicia “Lisha” Gayle was stabbed 43 times in 1998 with a butcher knife while at home, during a robbery, according to court records. Gayle had been a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter.
Attorneys for Williams have argued his innocence saying DNA tests produced, “conclusive scientific evidence that another man committed this crime.” Attorney Kent Gipson says that DNA testing in December using techniques that were not available at the time of the 2001 murder conviction showed DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man and it is not Williams.
Williams was scheduled to be executed in 2015 but the state Supreme Court stayed his lethal injection, allowing time to obtain the new DNA testing.
In court filings the office of Attornet Joshua D. Hawley say two people, a man who served time with Williams and Williams’s girlfriend, both told police that he confessed guilt to the murder.
The five members of the Board of Inquiry to be appointed by Governor Greitens will include retired Missouri judges. The Board shall have subpoena power over persons and things, pursuant to state law. At the close of its work, the Board will report and make a recommendation to the Governor as to whether or not Williams should be executed or his sentence of death commuted, the governor said in a statement.