One last appeal to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) has resulted in a man potentially avoiding death Tuesday afternoon.
In 1999 Marcellus Williams was charged with the killing 42-year-old Felicia “Lisha” Gayle, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Found stabbed 43 times by her killer, there was no DNA evidence that linked Williams to the crime.
Regardless, he was convicted in 2001 with the only evidence against him being statements from a man who served time with Williams and Williams’ girlfriend at the time. As The Washington Post reports, there was also a laptop stolen from Gayle’s home that Williams sold and items belonging to Gayle were found in a car Williams drove the day she was killed.
Through the years Williams has pled his innocence up until last week when a petition was shared on social media to grant him a final pardon.
“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Greitens said in a statement. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case.”
“They’re never going to ever confront an actual innocence cause more persuading than this involving exonerating DNA evidence,” said Kent Gipson, one of Williams’s attorneys. “I’ve seen a lot of miscarriages of justice, but this one would take the cake.”
There has only been one person executed in the state of Missouri this year —but the state is one of three in the country to execute someone every year since 2013, despite the overall numbers of executions declining.
Sadly, if Williams is innocent, the trauma has already been done with him sitting in jail for nearly 20 years. As noted by the Innocence Project, 20 out of every 351 people exonerated served time on death row with the average length of time served for those exonerated (death row and other) being 14 years.
As of this hour, Williams’ life hangs in the balance as a review of his case is pending.