CLAYTON, MO - Convicted killer Marcellus Williams received a reprieve Tuesday. Missouri Governor Eric Greitens issued a stay just hours before Williams was scheduled to be executed. Greitens will order a 5-member board to investigate whether the execution should move forward.
It’s a case that’s gained national attention following news that a DNA sample taken from the murder weapon did not match Williams. St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch has maintained the DNA testing did not exclude Williams either.
Felicia Gayle was a former reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was murdered inside her University City home in 1998. Williams was convicted after a former cellmate of his went to police and said Williams admitted killing Gayle. Williams’ attorneys questioned the cellmate’s credibility because he received reward money. Prosecutors say that cellmate provided information about the crime that had never been made public. They also recovered items from Gayle’s home inside a car they say Williams had been driving.
Williams’ son, Marcellus Williams, Jr., met with his father Tuesday. He did not know if that would be the last time he saw his father. He said the two had a serious talk with his father offering him advice. Later Williams Jr. learned his father was given a second chance.
“You got to give people a fair chance, you know because my father is innocent,” he said. “People saw a black man and a white woman and boom they just threw him to the side and instantly pegged him as guilty.”
“This was the right thing to do given the evidence that we had presented and had not had the opportunity to present,” said Larry Komp, Williams’ attorney. “Now we will get that opportunity.”
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch released the following statement:
Marcellus Williams was convicted by a St. Louis County jury of the 1998 murder of Lisha Gayle. The same jury, after hearing and considering all of the evidence declared his punishment to be death for the murder. After thorough consideration of all evidence and the law, the trial Judge concurred and imposed a sentence of death. The conviction and sentence have been reviewed and affirmed repeatedly during the past twenty years by the Missouri Supreme Court and others.
This afternoon, Governor Greitens, pursuant to the Missouri Constitution, exercised his right and duty as Governor and granted a stay of execution to Marcellus Williams pending his final determination regarding granting clemency to Williams. 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.
The following statement was released on behalf of the Missouri Attorney General:
“Based on the other, non-DNA, evidence in this case, our office is confident in Marcellus Williams’ guilt and plans to move forward.”
“We remain confident in the judgment of the jury and the many courts that have carefully reviewed Mr. Williams’ case over sixteen years. We applaud the work of the numerous law enforcement officers who have dedicated their time and effort to pursuing justice in this case.”