The governor of Missouri halted an execution of a convicted murderer on Tuesday, the same day the prisoner was expected to die by lethal injection, in light of new DNA evidence.
"A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment," Missouri Gov. Eric 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."
CNN reported that 48-year-old Marcellus Williams’ attorneys revealed that DNA evidence, which was unavailable during his 2001 trial, will prove his innocence. Greitens announced that the new Board of Inquiry will review evidence, and make a recommendation to Greitens on whether or not Williams is granted clemency.
The Missouri Attorney General's Office argued against the governor’s decision. They stated that the non-DNA evidence still connects William to the murder, and that he should have still been executed.
Williams was convicted for murdering 42-year-old Felicia Gayle, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported. She was found stabbed 43 times inside her home in 1998. The new DNA evidence shows that DNA on the knife didn’t match Williams’ but that it belonged to another male.
However, court documents filed by the office of the Missouri’s attorney general, stated that Williams sold a laptop stolen from Gayle’s home, and that other stolen items that belonged to Gayle were found in Williams’ car the day she was murdered, the Washington Post reported.
"We are relieved and grateful that Gov. Greitens halted Missouri's rush to execution and appointed a Board of Inquiry to hear the new DNA and other evidence supporting Mr. Williams' innocence," said Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project. "While many Americans hold different views on the death penalty, there is an overwhelming consensus that those sentenced to death should be given due process and a full hearing on all their claims before an execution, and the governor's action honors that principle."
[Image: Missouri Department of Corrections]