Ex-judges to review evidence in Missouri death penalty case

7 months 2 weeks 2 days ago Tuesday, August 07 2018 Aug 7, 2018 Tuesday, August 07, 2018 4:23:00 AM CDT August 07, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will allow a panel of five former judges to review the death penalty case of Marcellus Williams, whose guilt in the stabbing death of a former newspaper reporter has been called into question by DNA evidence.

The inquiry was initially ordered last year by then-Gov. Eric Greitens. Parson replaced his fellow Republican as governor in June after Greitens resigned amid investigations into an extramarital affair and his alleged use of a charity donor list for political purposes.

Kelli Jones, a spokeswoman for Parson, confirmed Monday that the panel has been given the go-ahead to proceed.

Williams' attorney, Kent Gipson, said Parson made "the right decision. We're obviously happy about it."

Williams, now 49, was convicted of killing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a 1998 burglary at her home in University City. Gayle, 42, was a reporter at the Post-Dispatch from 1981 to 1992 before leaving to do social work.

Williams was hours away from execution last August when Greitens stepped in and ordered the investigation.

Greitens' action followed the release of new DNA testing unavailable at the time of the killing: DNA found on the murder weapon matched another unknown person, not Williams.

Still, St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said that there was "zero possibility" Williams was innocent, citing ample amounts of other evidence.

Prosecutors said Williams broke a window pane to get inside Gayle's home on Aug. 11, 1998, heard water running in the shower, and found a large butcher knife. When Gayle came downstairs, she was stabbed 43 times. Her purse and her husband's laptop were stolen.

Authorities said Williams stole a jacket to conceal blood on his shirt. Williams' girlfriend asked him why he would wear a jacket on such a hot day. The girlfriend said she later saw the laptop in the car and that Williams sold it a day or two later.

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

Williams' attorneys responded that the girlfriend and Cole were both convicted felons out for a $10,000 reward.

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