Petitioners convince Greitens to stay execution

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JEFFERSON CITY - A dozen protestors dropped off a petition with 200,000 signatures to Gov. Eric Greitens' office Tuesday urging the governor stay the execution of Marcellus Williams.

They succeeded.

Greitens issued a stay of execution around 1:30 p.m., roughly four and a half hours before Williams was scheduled to die.

New DNA evidence tested by Dr. Greg Hampikian of Boise State University brought Williams' guilt into doubt and had opponents of the death penalty working to free Williams. 

"We as a state, we as a people in a democratic society should not be killing human beings. That should be of a by-gone era of brutality," said Jeff Stack, coordinator for the Mid-Missouri Fellowship for Reconciliation.

Williams was sentenced to death in 2001 for the 1998 killing of Lisha Gayle.

In a statement before the governor's announcement, the office of Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said, "Based on the other, non-DNA, evidence in this case, our office is confident in Marcellus Williams' guilt and plans to move forward."

Stack, pro-life advocates and representatives from the NAACP submitted the petition and had originally planned to hold a vigil outside the Boone County Courthouse at 5 p.m. Tuesday night to honor Williams.

Despite the victory, they still had a small sign-holding rally outside the court house attended by a dozen supporters.

"Really that the pressure that ordinary citizens across the state and across the country and even the world perhaps have shoved on Eric Greitens to stop this lynching," said Rockbridge senior Quinn Cunningham

Columbia resident and death penalty opponent Francine Koehler said, "Power to the people kind of thing, we can do it if we hang together."

The governor created a board of inquiry comprised of retired Missouri judges to further investigate the case.  

They will have subpoena power and will provide the governor with a recommendation on how to proceed.  The opponents of the death penalty said they will be watching.