Missouri Governor Halts Death Row Inmate’s Execution After New DNA Evidence

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has halted the scheduled execution of a convicted killer after DNA evidence has raised questions about his guilt.

The Republican governor said in an email Tuesday that he was issuing a stay of execution for 48-year-old Marcellus Williams.

He was convicted of fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a burglary at her suburban St. Louis home in 1998. Williams was scheduled for execution at 6pm on Tuesday.

The governor’s decision comes after Williams’ attorneys cited DNA evidence found on the murder weapon that matched another unknown person, but not Williams.

But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said there was ample other evidence to convict Williams, and that there was ‘zero possibility’ he was innocent.

Greitens says he will appoint a five-member board of inquiry that will include retired judges. The board will make a recommendation to the governor concerning whether Williams should be executed. No timetable has been set.

Had his death been carried out at the state prison in Bonne Terre, it would have been the state’s second execution this year.

Williams’ attorneys had also 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.

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