US & Canada

Marcellus Williams: Missouri governor stays execution

Marcellus Williams Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Marcellus Williams

The governor of Missouri has issued a stay of execution for a death row inmate and appointed a panel to investigate his conviction.

The order came only hours before Marcellus Williams, 48, was due to be put to death for the 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle, a newspaper reporter.

"A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment," Governor Eric Greitens said in a statement.

Lawyers for Williams say someone else's DNA is on the murder weapon.

"To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt," wrote Governor Greitens.

"In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case," the governor wrote only hours before the lethal injection execution was due.

Lawyers for the state argue that despite Williams's DNA not being present on the weapon, other witnesses' testimonies are still sufficient evidence to convict him.

The Missouri Attorney General's office has said that "based on the other, non-DNA, evidence in this case, our office is confident in Marcellus Williams' guilt and plans to move forward".

Gayle was brutally murdered in her own home, where she was stabbed 43 times with a butcher's knife, court records show.

Williams' lawyers, in a briefing presented to the US Supreme Court on Monday night, argue that DNA found on the knife used to kill Gayle belongs to another man.

The execution decision is still ultimately up to the governor, who will make his determination after the five-person panel's work is completed.

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