Review of death row case cancelled, family left waiting again

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JEFFERSON CITY — Greitens’ sudden resignation puts the fate of a death row inmate on hold, again.

Greitens granted a stay of execution just hours before Marcellus Williams was schedule to die in August. He appointed a Board of Inquiry to review the case of Williams, who was convicted of murdering of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter in 2001.

Before Greitens formally resigned, he issued five pardons and commuted four sentences. None of those included Williams. The board was supposed to meet Tuesday to make a recommendation to Gov. Mike Parson about Williams’ case. 

Advocates rallied outside of the Missouri Supreme Court building even though the board canceled its meeting. Participants included Williams’ son, three men who were previously on death row, the NAACP and an organization against the death penalty.

Marcellus Williams Jr. said his father has long insisted he is innocent.

“The kind of man he is, he's really genuine, he's not a liar,” Williams Jr. said. "So for him this long to be saying this and never give upping shows me he is innocent, and there's DNA evidence proving it."

In 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court postponed Williams' execution date to allow time for DNA testing. Defense attorneys say the evidence showed Williams' DNA was not found on the murder weapon. An unknown man's was.

Many of those at Tuesday's rally said they were surprised when Greitens did not pardon Williams in his last day of office. 

“That's like the ultimate slap in the face. I was hurt,” Williams Jr. said. 

He and others said they were also upset Tuesday's meeting was cancelled. 

"We got a man sitting on death row, with DNA evidence that could exonerate him of a murder," Williams Jr. said. 

Williams’ lawyer, Kent Gipson, said he is unsure why the meeting was canceled, but thinks it is because Parson needs time transitioning as governor.

“I think they realized Parson has a lot on his plate and he may want to take time to familiarize himself with the case," Gipson said. "I'm pretty confident the board will continue its work. Any fair-minded person who looks at this DNA evidence will come to that same conclusion, that there is a lot of doubt about his guilt."

The board has not yet rescheduled the meeting.