Missouri Governor Saves Death Row Inmate At The Last Second Because Of DNA
Kylie Perry August 30th 2017 Entertainment
They say timing is everything in life. While perhaps there's no such thing as too early in some situations, for a death row inmate sentenced to be executed, there's a point in time that certainly would have been too late. But Missouri Governor Eric Streitens wanted to make sure a man convicted of murder was given a fair shake and the opportunity to prove his innocence based on new DNA evidence that was not available when the case was originally tried.
Can new DNA evidence exonerate the condemned?
Marcellus Williams was tried in 2001 for the 1998 murder of 42-year-old Felicia Gayle, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Gayle had been found dead in her home, a victim of 43 stab wounds, and Williams was found guilty of her murder. But Williams' attorneys are now saying that new DNA evidence that was unavailable during the trial might actually prove he didn't do it.
In matters of life and death, there can be no uncertainty. All possibilities must be exhausted when human lives hang in the balance. "A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment," Governor Greitens said in a statement on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. The 48-year-old Williams was scheduled to be executed that evening. "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."
Not everyone agreed with the reprieve
Governor Greitens' (pictured) decision was not without its detractors, despite being generally well-received and commended. The Missouri Attorney General's Office felt that the execution should be carried out as scheduled and that the DNA evidence isn't enough to outweigh the non-DNA evidence on which the convicted was found guilty. "Based on the other, non-DNA, evidence in this case, our office is confident in Marcellus Williams' guilt," said Loree Anne Paradise, deputy chief of staff for Missouri's Attorney General, Josh Hawley.
Among the original evidence presented is a laptop computer that belonged to the victim's husband. Williams reportedly sold the laptop, which police later recovered. Additionally, some of the victim's personal items were found in the of trunk Williams' car. Williams was jailed weeks after Gayle's death on unrelated charges. Williams' cellmate during his incarceration and his girlfriend at the time both testified that he'd told each of them he'd committed the murder.
The truth will come out
According to reports, the new DNA evidence in the case shows that Williams' DNA was not found on the murder weapon, but the DNA of another, unknown male was. Williams has maintained his innocence throughout and posits that those who testified against him were, themselves, convicted felons. The news of Williams' stay of execution was applauded by his attorneys, and opponents of capital punishment worldwide. "He was thoughtful and I believe happy, and asked where do we go from here," defense attorney Larry Komp said. "His reaction was the same as mine: Happy for 30 seconds and then 'Alright, let's get to work.'"
"We are relieved and grateful that Gov. Greitens halted Missouri's rush to execution and appointed a Board of Inquiry to hear the new DNA and other evidence supporting Mr. Williams' innocence," said Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project, which assisted Williams' attorneys in petitioning the governor to convene the inquiry board.