UPDATE: Greitens halts scheduled execution after DNA evidence questioned

2 months 3 weeks 6 days ago Tuesday, August 22 2017 Aug 22, 2017 Tuesday, August 22, 2017 6:30:00 AM CDT August 22, 2017 in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on Missouri's planned execution of inmate Marcellus Williams (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch says he is confident that a board of inquiry will confirm that the conviction and death penalty are appropriate for a condemned inmate whose life was spared hours before he was scheduled to die.

Marcellus Williams was set to be executed Tuesday evening for fatally stabbing Lisha Gayle during a 1998 burglary at her suburban St. Louis home. But Republican Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens granted a stay of execution after Williams' attorneys cited DNA evidence found on the murder weapon that matched another unknown person, but not Williams.

Greitens says he will appoint a five-member board of inquiry to recommend whether Williams should be executed.

McCulloch said in a statement that courts have repeatedly upheld Williams' conviction and sentence.

Kent Gipson, Williams' attorney, called the governor's decision "the appropriate thing to do."

___

3:15 p.m.

Protesters are rejoicing after Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens stopped the planned execution of an inmate who maintains his innocence.

A small group of protesters who traveled to the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City from Kansas City wrote the governor a thank-you note on the spot after learning Tuesday that Greitens is issuing a stay of execution for Marcellus Williams. Williams was convicted of fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a 1998 burglary at her suburban St. Louis home.

Williams had been scheduled for execution at 6 p.m. 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's "zero possibility" he's innocent.

Greitens says he will appoint a five-member board of inquiry to make a recommendation concerning whether Williams should be executed.

___

1:55 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has halted the scheduled execution of condemned killer Marcellus Williams after DNA raised questions about his guilt.

The Republican governor said in an email Tuesday that he was issuing a stay of execution for Williams, who 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 6 p.m. 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.

___

1:25 p.m.

Death penalty opponents and others are asking Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to stop the planned execution of an inmate who maintains his innocence.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and Missouri NAACP officials on Tuesday delivered copies of more than 185,000 signatures asking Greitens to save Marcellus Williams. He's scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday. His attorneys asked Greitens for clemency.

Williams was sentenced to death in the 1998 fatal stabbing of Lisha Gayle, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who left journalism for social work. Authorities say she surprised Williams while he was robbing her home in the St. Louis suburb of University City.

Williams' attorneys contend that testing conducted in December using techniques that weren't available at the time of the killing showed that DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams.

___

1:15 p.m.

St. Louis County's prosecutor says there is "zero possibility" that an inmate who is scheduled to die is innocent of the fatal stabbing that put him on death row.

Marcellus Williams is due to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday for fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a 1998 robbery at her home in University City, a St. Louis suburb.

Williams' attorneys cite DNA evidence on the murder weapon that matches another unknown man, but not Williams. But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch says the DNA tests were simply inconclusive.

McCulloch says there is ample other evidence that Williams committed the crime.

Williams would be the second man executed in Missouri this year.

___

10:40 a.m.

Death penalty opponents are protesting Missouri's planned execution of an inmate who maintains his innocence.

Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and other groups are organizing rallies and vigils throughout the state ahead of the scheduled 6 p.m. Tuesday execution of Marcellus Williams.

One will take place outside of the Capitol office of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, whom Williams has asked for clemency.

Williams was sentenced to death in the 1998 fatal stabbing of Lisha Gayle, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who left journalism for social work. Authorities say she surprised Williams while he was robbing her home in the St. Louis suburb of University City.

Williams' attorneys contend that testing conducted in December using techniques that weren't available at the time of the killing showed that DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams.

___

12:05 a.m.

Missouri is preparing for its second execution of 2017, even as condemned inmate Marcellus Williams continues to declare his innocence.

Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre for the 1998 stabbing death of Lisha Gayle. The onetime St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter surprised the burglar and was killed at her University City home.

Attorneys for Williams contend that 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. They say previous DNA testing of hairs from Gayle's shirt and fingernails also excluded Williams, and that footprints at the scene did not match Williams.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the most recent information.

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