Marcellus Williams, 48, was scheduled to be executed today.
The Missouri Dept. of Corrections inmate has been held on death row since 2001, for the 1998 killing of Lisha Gayle, who was stabbed to death inside her home in St. Louis, Missiouri.
The thing is, “There is no physical evidence, no eyewitnesses that directly connect Williams to the murder, the DNA on the weapon wasn’t his, the bloody footprint at the murder scene wasn’t from Williams’ shoe and was a different size, and the hair fibres found weren’t his. It was someone else that killed Gayle, not Williams.” – Kent Gipson, Defense Lawyer
So how did Williams get convicted in the first place? The jury based its decision off the shaky testimony of two people, William’s former short-term girlfriend, Laura Asaro, and his cellmate Henry Cole.
Asaro claimed to see scratches on Williams neck and that he was in possession of the victims driver’s license, but her claims have been debunked. Gipson states, “Scratches would leave DNA traces on the victim, but Williams’ DNA was not found underneath the victim’s fingernails. She also claimed she saw Williams with the victim’s driver’s license, which is impossible because Gayle’s license was left at the crime scene.”
Cole shared a cell with Williams after he had been taken into custody on suspicion of being involved in Gayle’s murder, and his testimony was simply an allgeation that Williams had confessed to murdering the 42-year-old woman, with no supporting evidence.
Gipson, as well as many others, believe both testimonies were financially motivated to give false statements in the hope of receiving a financial reward.
“The victim’s family offered a reward of $10,000 for anyone with tips leading to the arrest of the person who murdered Lisha Gayle,” Gipson explained. “They both got paid by the victim’s family after their testimonies.”
With all this exonerating evidence in Williams’ favor, the Missouri Supreme Court still refused to seriously consider Marcellus’ innocence.
“We petitioned the court to look at the new evidence on August 14th, and less than 24 hours later they decided based on the court files that the execution should go ahead anyway. This is unprecedented,” Gipson told Al Jazeera.
That was until 2pm today. Merely 3 hours ago, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed an executive order halting the lethal injection. Greitens also appointed a board of inquiry, “in light of new information”, to further consider Williams’s clemency request, and issue a report about whether he should be executed or have his sentence commuted.
To show support of Marcellus Williams exoneration you can visit Change.org