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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Disputed DNA has halted the scheduled execution of a Missouri man. Marcellus Williams, 48, was convicted of fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a 1998 robbery at her home in the suburb of University City.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Tuesday halted the scheduled execution after DNA testing raised questions about whether he actually killed.

Just hours before Williams was to be put to death, the Republican governor said in an email that he was issuing a stay of execution.

Williams’ attorneys had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a new hearing or the commutation of his sentence to life in prison.

Attorney Kent Gipson contends that DNA testing conducted in December using techniques that were not available at the time of the killing showed DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams. He also cited previous DNA testing of hairs found from Gayle’s shirt and fingernails that also excluded Williams, and said footprints at the scene did not match Williams.

The new evidence “means in our mind the actual killer is not him,” Gipson told The Associated Press last week.

Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, said the office remains confident that Williams is guilty based on other evidence in the case.

“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Greitens said in his statement. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt.”

Greitens said he will appoint a five-member board of inquiry made up of retired judges with subpoena power. The board will make a recommendation to the governor concerning whether the 48-year-old Williams should be executed. No timetable has been set.

Gipson said Williams’ conviction was based on the testimony of two convicted felons who were out for a $10,000 reward. One was Williams’ former girlfriend and the other was his former cellmate.

Gayle, 42, was stabbed repeatedly on Aug. 11, 1998, after surprising the burglar in her home. Gayle was a reporter at the Post-Dispatch from 1981 to 1992, leaving to do social work.

In a court filing last week, Assistant Attorney General Michael Spillane wrote that Williams took a bus to the St. Louis suburb of University City, Missouri, on Aug. 11, 1998, looking for a house to break into and chose Gayle’s.

Spillane said Williams broke out a window pane to get inside, where he heard water running in the shower. Spillane said Williams went downstairs and found a large butcher knife. When Gayle came downstairs, she was stabbed 43 times. Her purse and her husband’s laptop were stolen.

Spillane said Williams stole a jacket to conceal blood on his shirt. Williams’ girlfriend at the time, Laura Asaro, later asked him why he would wear a jacket on such a hot day. According to prosecutors, the girlfriend said she later saw the laptop in the car and that Williams sold it a day or two later.

The state also cites testimony from Henry Cole, who shared a cell with Williams for three months in 1999 while Williams was jailed in St. Louis on unrelated charges. Cole told prosecutors that Williams confessed to the killing and offered details about it.

But Gipson said the girlfriend and Cole were both convicted felons who were out for a $10,000 reward.

In addition to the murder conviction, Williams is also serving consecutive terms of life in prison for robbery, and 30 years each for burglary and weapons crimes.

After several years of being among the states with the highest number of executions, the pace in Missouri has slowed considerably. The only execution in this state this year was in January, when Mark Christeson was put to death for killing a woman and her two children.

(Missouri Department of Corrections via AP)

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12 thoughts on “Missouri Governor Halts Execution Over DNA Questions

  1. Well the AG hasn’t given up yet since and I guess police finding the victims stolen property in Marcellus Williams car trunk yeah he must be innocent, who knows maybe Dylan Roof can use this strategy

  2. Joe Gonzales on said:

    Black people have been disproportionately executed in the United States of America for the wrong reasons. Because black people were only considered 3/5 of a human being and we’re only given 100 of the benefit of Justice. Based on all this b******* we need to be very cautious that we don’t take the wrong life. Many times after 20 years we have finally exonerated wrongfully accused black men and women that were set to be executed. How many more blacks is White America willing to kill for the simple joy of saying that is Justice served.

  3. Joe Gonzales on said:

    Where is the value in executing somebody that has killed somebody else? The reality is that the person that this person killed is already dead you can never bring that person back. We are in the year of 2017 and not in 1865. The logical thing to do is to get this person to work hard hard labor for the rest of his life and to compensate back to the personally has caused harm. The purpose of murdering a person that has murdered somebody else is considered to seek revenge. Revenge in this case is short-lived for both the murder and the victim’s family. Once this man is executed that is the end for both parties or is it? I think the best way is to punish a murder through hard labor and being forced to confront those people for the rest of his life.

  4. Only in Amerykah can a man of color be considered GUILTY rather than INNOCENT -when it should be reversed.

    Opps, it’s only white folks who are INNOCENT until proven GUILTY!!!!!!!!

    Regardless of this man’s previous criminal record, he just might be INNOCENT of the crime he has
    been charged with.

    If the State of Missouri executes him and evidence is later found that someone else did commit
    the crime-then what? You can’t bring back the DEAD!!!!!!!!!

  5. The Truth on said:

    We all know when it comes to black people the justice system is NOT JUST. If they have new evidence my God saying that this man did not kill this person you agreed to go on and kill him what kind of person are You. This is so sickening to me but don’t worry because there’s a God up above just like he put the air breath in your body God sees all knows all and you are no better than the person who actual killed the person. They have killed so many innocent people..they are KILLERS TO. I try to teach these young black kids stay out of the JUSTICE system they don’t give a damn about you. Just looking at the color of your skin your automatically guilty your skin represents crime no good all this negative stuff that they think in their heart AND Head.You need to be smart. The same ISSUES KAEPERNICK IS KNEELING FOR..GOD BE WITH HIM…AMERICA… RED WHITE AND WRONG…

  6. DAMMMMMN!!!!! On top of the death penalty, you serving TWO consecutive life sentences AND 30 years for burglary and weapon charges… SMDH!!!

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