Amid new DNA evidence, Missouri governor stays execution of death row inmate

An anti-death penalty sign.
(Image credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Just hours before Marcellus Williams, 48, was scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) issued a stay of execution, in light of attorneys saying DNA evidence proves Williams did not stab to death Felicia Gayle, a 42-year-old former reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in her home nearly 20 years ago.

In a statement, Greitens said a "sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt." Greitens is going to appoint a five-person Board of Inquiry, which will review the case and offer a recommendation to him, CNN reports. Williams' attorneys said they did not have the DNA evidence during his 2001 trial, and a forensic DNA expert and biologist hired by the legal team found that hair samples found at the crime scene do not match Williams and none of his DNA is on the murder weapon.

The Missouri Attorney General's Office said there is still plenty of non-DNA evidence proving Williams' guilt; Williams sold Gayle's husband's laptop, and some of the victim's personal items were found inside the trunk of his car. From the beginning, Williams has maintained his innocence, saying he was convicted based on testimony from convicted felons.

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